Why does it get worse? How can it be controlled?
Patients diagnosed as having myopia are considered “nearsighted” because they see things more clearly up close than far away. Over the years, most people who are nearsighted are given glasses or contacts to help them see in the distance. If your prescription is stable, this is usually sufficient. But for an increasing number of people, their prescription gets stronger every year. In some cases, it can get worse much faster, requiring new prescriptions every six months or so.
When the prescription keeps getting stronger, you are at risk for developing sight threatening eye diseases. It is important to know that there are many causes of and treatments for myopia. Once the cause of the problem is identified, an effective treatment plan can be designed.
Clinical science has established that there are at least three forms of myopia:
Type I – This type of myopia is present at birth or develops shortly thereafter in one or both eyes. This is typically a more severe form of myopia and less influenced by how we use our eyes.
Type II – This type of myopia is acquired or functional myopia. When acquired at a young age, this myopia may be due to heredity, but its development depends on environmental influences. This can occur when the eyes are working too hard to see up close for reading and/or working on the computer or other digital devices.
Type III – This type of myopia, develops in adults and can be associated with disease conditions such as diabetes, but is rare and transient.
Research has shown that the degree of Type II (functional) myopia experienced by some patients is a result of their response to visual demands. Extended periods of reading or viewing computer screens for sustained periods of time, with little physical activity, encourages the progression of nearsightedness at virtually any age. Over time the eyes focusing mechanism shifts inward, sacrificing distance clarity for near clarity.
Functional myopia usually develops gradually. Initially it may be noticed as a temporary blurring when shifting focus from near to far distances. Then the blur becomes prominent at the end of a school or work day. This cycle repeats itself until the blur at distance is constant. Children will have trouble copying from the board; adults will be aware of blurred road signs when driving home.
A comprehensive vision evaluation and appropriate supplementary testing are needed to determine which form of treatment for your nearsightedness is most appropriate.
The traditional approach to helping people who have trouble seeing things in the distance is to provide them with glasses to help them see far away. Although this may be appropriate in most cases, when vision continues to get worse, we need to address the underlying causes. In some cases, developmental or rehabilitative lenses may be needed. These lenses may incorporate prism, a bifocal, or a multifocal prescription.
Another alternative to contact lenses is ortho-keratology. Special contact lenses are worn at night to flatten the cornea and decrease nearsightedness. During the day no contact lenses or glasses are needed to see clearly in the distance.
A program of Optometric Vision Therapy may also be recommended for patients of any age who are experiencing large increases in nearsightedness at each yearly exam. This can include special lens prescriptions or an active treatment program that usually combines in-office visual activities with home therapy procedures. In very simple terms these are “eye exercises” that help to improve the underlying binocular or eye teaming problems that cause this increase to occur.
The good news is that we are able to help most people who are struggling with becoming nearsighted too quickly. To find out how we can help, schedule an appointment today.