What is myopia?

Myopia or short-sightedness is a common vision problem where it can be difficult to see objects in the distance.

It’s not an eye disease – it’s what’s known as a refractive error. With myopia, the eye does not bend light properly, which effects the way the eye focuses on objects in the distance.

When a person is short-sighted, things like road signs while driving (especially at night) can be difficult to read, however, reading a book might be fine.

According to Optometry Australia, 67% of Australians have heard of myopia and 49% experience symptoms.

Myopia symptoms

According to a new study, 1 in 5 middle aged Australians struggle to read road signs while driving.

Children may have trouble reading from the whiteboard at school or may sit too close to the television at home.

While difficulty seeing things in the distance is often the only symptom, some people with myopia might have:

• Headaches
• Eye strain
• Eye fatigue
• Squinting

Myopia causes

Short-sightedness is a structural problem within the eye where there is too much of a curve in the cornea or crystalline lens or the eyeball is too long.

This causes light to focus in front of the retina in the back of the eye, instead of directly onto it, making objects in the distance appear blurry.

It’s not totally clear what the underlying cause is, but research suggests short-sightedness runs in the family. Not enough time spent outdoors is a contributing factor along with too much time spent focusing on objects up close like books, screens or other devices.

Myopia diagnosis

Myopia is easily diagnosed in a routine eye test. An optometrist will use an eye chart to check the visual acuity of a person, and will use other instruments to check if a person is short-sighted or long-sighted (hyperopia).

It’s often picked up in childhood and without intervention it tends to get worse until after the teenage years. But with myopia control strategies is it possible to significantly reduce the rate and degree of deterioration.

Early detection and intervention is vital to try to slow the progression of the vision problem.

Myopia control

Glasses or contact lenses can easily correct your vision if you have myopia or short-sightedness – but there is currently no treatment or cure so a myopic person’s vision may continue to worsen.

Once the myopia has stabilised, usually once a person is over 18, laser eye surgery can be an effective long-term way to correct your vision – but there are no guarantees. Sometimes a degree of myopia can return.

Optometrists now take a more wholistic approach by creating a management plan tailored to the individual, which aims to reduce the speed and severity of the vision deterioration.

Myopia control methods depend on a person’s age, prescription and lifestyle needs. Some common treatment options include: myopia control or distance-centre multifocal contact lenses, atropine eye drops, bifocal or multifocal glasses, or orthokeratology (which entails the wearing of rigid contact lenses while you sleep to help reshape the cornea).

Your optometrist can help to guide you on the best option to suit you and your lifestyle.

It’s also important to ensure you continue to have regular eye tests to make sure you don’t develop complications like glaucoma, cataracts or other eye conditions.

Your optometrist will give you personalised advice on how regularly you should book in for an eye test.

We are here to help, ask your optometrist if you have any questions about glaucoma or book an eye test today.