Why is Being Nearsighted a Big Deal?
Dr. Kandi Moller knows what it is like to grow up and not see the board in school. What it is like to have to wear glasses in 5th grade….as if puberty wasn’t hard enough :-0 What it is like to have the prescription change dramatically year after year, glasses get thicker and thicker. What it is like to not be able to see the clock next to the bed. What it is like to not see leaves on trees. What it is like to deal with dry, uncomfortable contact lenses. What it is like to have “coke bottle lenses” in her glasses.
This is all because she was nearsighted, or myopic, at age 11, which progressed and eventually ended at -4.00 and -6.00. Let’s just say she really was blind without her glasses ;-) . Forty (!!!) years ago we didn’t have options to help her from becoming more and more nearsighted, but TODAY WE DO! We can help your child from having to rely on thicker and thicker glasses, harder-to-fit contact lenses.
Let’s back up. Nearsightedness, or myopia, means a person can see up close without correction, but things far away are blurry. The eyeball has grown longer than it should be, preventing light from focusing correctly. We use glasses or contact lenses to refocus light onto the back of the eyeball, the retina.
Why do people become nearsighted? There are a lot of factors. Genetics, environment, and the individual’s characteristics all contribute. Let’s explore each one.
Genetics: Having one nearsighted parent increases the chance of being nearsighted three times; six times if both parents are nearsighted. Research suggests a link between Asian ethnicity and faster progression of myopia, with higher worldwide prevalence in this group.
Environment: Near work (as in allllll the phone, tablet, and computer use in this age) is a large factor. Remember all the bookworms wore glasses (yep, Dr. Moller was one!); not to help us read, but because we focused so much up close that our eyes could not see far anymore. Children should not spend more than three hours a day – in addition to school time – on close work such as reading, homework or screen-time. Related to near work is outdoor time. Studies show that getting children to spend time outdoors before they become nearsighted can prevent it, so get out and play! And working on electronics while outside doesn’t count. Don’t forget UV protection for your eyes and skin!
Individual’s characteristics: Sometimes it happens regardless of genetics and outdoor time. Dr. Moller’s father was nearsighted and she was a bookworm, but she also spent virtually her entire childhood outdoors. She is very thankful for no electronics or who knows how much more nearsighted she would have become.
So what is the big deal with being nearsighted? Since we can “correct” it, why does it merit its own blog? The more nearsighted someone becomes, the greater the chance of some very serious eye diseases which can cause permanent loss of sight: glaucoma (increased eye pressure that causes loss of side vision, and does not have any symptoms), myopic macular degeneration (loss of central vision), and retinal detachment (the retinal film lining the eyeball pulls away).
This has all been leading up to the TREATMENT OF MYOPIA! Yes, we have ways to slow down and decrease how nearsighted a child becomes!
1. Low-dose atropine, one drop instilled nightly. The patient still needs correction during the day.
2. Specialty soft contact lenses worn during the day
3. Orthokeratology, overnight reshaping of cornea so the patient needs no correction during the day.