A pair of glasses

Myopia: Causes and Solutions

Myopia occurs because the visual image doesn’t get directly focused on the retina but before it

A pair of glasses
Myopia: Causes and Solutions | iSTOCK

Myopia, shortsightedness or nearsightedness, consists in an error of the visual focus that hinders the vision of faraway objects, in a way that they’re seen blurred whilst their near vision is correct. Broadly speaking it develops quickly during your youth and it stabilizes starting at the age of 20. Although it affects equally men and women, there is certain genetic predisposition to suffer from it. 

In this article we’re going to talk about the causes that may lead to myopia, what the symptoms are of those affected by this condition, how to diagnose it and when we should visit the specialist to undertake a check-up. 

The Causes and Diagnosis of Myopia

Myopia is caused because the visual image doesn’t get directly focused on the retina but before it. This disorder may be produced because the eye is too elongated or because the lens has a too short focal length. Myopia is detected through tests of visual acuity and refraction  and an in-depth test of both the retina and the eye muscles. 

It’s been nowadays established that shortsightedness has a strong genetic component, which means that this condition is mainly passed on from parents to children. However, it must be also stressed that there are people who suffer from myopia and have a family with no history of this eye condition. In those cases, the causes to suffer from shortsightedness are the following:

  • Pathological: some illnesses may lead you to temporary (pseudomyopia) or definitive nearsightedness. For example, type 2 diabetes or some types of cataracts may lead to myopia. A cataract is the loss of lens transparency, which produces an alteration in the refraction of light.
  • Toxic: if a person consumes certain substances, these may produce temporary or definitive visual alterations, thereby altering your sight and leading to myopia.
  • Environmental: although so far it hasn’t been entirely demonstrated, it’s believed that there’s a direct link between the development of this condition and the development of actions that demand the repeated nearing of the eye to a specific object during a child’s developmental stage.   

Nearsightedness Symptoms

The symptom that most commonly signals myopia is blurred vision of distant objects. However, in the first stages of the disorder,  the patient may not notice their vision loss. That’s why it must be checked if, together with blurred vision, there are also constant blinks, headaches or eye strain.

In the following we elaborate on the various myopia symptoms:

  • Blurred vision when looking at faraway objects.
  • Constant squinting to be able to see clearly.
  • Suffering headaches because of eye strain.
  • Difficulty in seeing clearly when driving a vehicle, not least at dusk. This phenomenon is known as night myopia.  

Broadly speaking myopia is detected in people for the first time during their childhood, to be more specific, in their first years at elementary school, and in their teens.

If a child suffers from nearsightedness, they’ll exhibit the following symptoms:

  • Constant squinting.
  • Having the need to sit close to the TV set, the computer screen or the cinema screen. They often also sit in the first row of the classroom.  
  • They blink all the time.
  • They don’t perceive the objects that are far away from them.
  • They  rub their eyes frequently.

When should you see a doctor?

It’s important to know when you should approach your family doctor or specialist. Some people suffer from very light myopia and they don’t even require eyeglasses or any other type of treatment for that matter. However, if your symptoms are more acute it’s necessary to check your sight.

If you experience difficulty in seeing faraway objects and you visualize a blurring when you focus on the horizon that is sufficiently acute to be able to see clearly or undertake a course of action properly, it’s important that you see a specialist.

If the quality of your sight stops you from enjoying your activities, you must go to the eye specialist to have your sight checked. The specialist will determine your degree of myopia and will assess the different options available to correct your sight.

It’s also important to know when you should resort to the emergency physician. In the following cases it’s necessary to see the emergency specialist:

  • In your field of vision floating objects appear such as little dark particles that seem to be floating.
  • You visualize a shadow like a curtain. This shadow also appears in your field of vision.
  • Light flashes appear in one of your eyes.

These symptoms signal a retinal detachment, a worsening of your myopia which doesn’t happen very often. However, if you experience any of these symptoms you must go to the emergency room given that a retinal detachment in time is gold not to lose your sight.

The Treatment of Myopia

Even though it’s true there is no preventive treatment, errors in your sight may be made up with by wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses, depending on the seriousness of the problem. Glasses have no harmful effects on your eye, although they may turn out to be uncomfortable to wear –and even unsightly— when doing sport or in some professions.

Lenses, for their part, are more comfortable and aesthetic even if some intolerance to them as well as corneal ulcers and serious infections may emerge should the appropriate hygienic habits not be followed.

Shortsightedness may also be corrected by way of surgery with the Lasik technique, which is able to mold the cornea and modify the stroma’s curvature. This type of surgery allows that images become well-focused on the retina. It’s suitable for those patients that have under 10 diopters and suffer no additional eye disorders.

The treatment of myopia consists in attempting to divert the light beams that are projected by the images, so that these may properly focused on the retina. To this end, the treatments that are effective nowadays are the ones mentioned above: prescription glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. In the following we elaborate on the advantages and disadvantages of each one of these treatments:

  • Glasses: as a downside, you may lose or break them. Besides, they fail to cover the entire field of vision. However, they have no harmful effects on your eye. Wearing glasses is not advisable for sport activities and certain professions.
  • Contact lenses: lenses provide adequate visual correction, including side or peripheral vision.  On the other hand, lenses may lead to corneal ulcers or infections in your eyes.
  • Refractive surgery: this is the most expensive option when it comes to the treatment of myopia. It’s a voluntary alternative for all those who wish to wear neither glasses nor lenses. It must be however taken into account that with this operation no perfect correction of the ill eye condition is guaranteed.

In any case, the assessment on the part of the doctor will make you aware of the most suitable options vis-à-vis the degree of myopia you suffer.