Myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness, occurs when people are able to see nearby objects clearly, but vision becomes blurred as objects move farther away. Currently, it’s estimated that myopia impacts nearly 3 out of 10 Americans and occurs when the actual eyeball is too long or the cornea is too curved.
While the exact cause of myopia is unknown, the incidence of myopia in children has skyrocket over the last 50 years. Since myopia is often diagnosed in school-aged children, it tends to be considered a childhood issue. However, recent research indicates that myopia is adults in on the rise with nearly 10 million American adults considered to be severely myopic.
Myopia in Children
While the exact cause of myopia is unknown, research clearly demonstrates that many children inherit the tendency to develop myopia from their parents. Generally, myopia first occurs in school-age children and continues to progress until age 20 and the eyeball stops growing.
Research conducted by the National Institute of Health and clinicians from the USC Eye Institute as Keck Medicine of USC found that childhood myopia has doubled over the last 50 years. Symptoms of childhood myopia include:
- Squinting while looking at objects
- Sitting close to television or computer screen
- Complaining of headaches
Myopia in Adults
Even though many cases of myopia may be inherited, the severity of how a person is affected by the condition is often determined by how person uses his or her eyes. Research continues to support the finding indicating that individuals spending large amounts of time working on computers or doing other work or activities requiring intense visual focus or up-close work are more likely to develop myopia.
Myopia may also develop in adults as a result of other, significant health issues, including diabetes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of myopia in adults are quite similar to those observed in children, and include:
- Blurry vision when looking at distant objects
- Squinting and/or partially closing the eyelids to see more clearly
- Headaches caused by eyestrain
- Apparent unawareness of distant objects
- Excessive blinking
- Frequent rubbing of the eyes
- Difficulty seeing while driving a vehicle (especially at night)
Addressing and Treating Myopia in Adults
To better address the condition of myopia in adults, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends eye exams on a regular basis. Specifically, adults at risk for glaucoma are encouraged to get a dilated eye exam annually or every two years after the age of 40.
Other recommendations for at-risk adults include exams at the following frequency:
- Ages 18 to 60: Every 1 to 2 years or as recommended
- Over age 61: Annually or as recommended
Treating Adult Onset Myopia
The goal of optometrists treating nearsightedness in adults is to use refocus light on the retina to improve vision. There are a number of options for nearsightedness to consider, including:
- Prescription Eyeglasses
- Contact Lenses
- Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK)
- Laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy (LASEK)
- Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)
In addition to treating adult myopia with corrective lenses and/or refractive surgery, practitioners are increasing using therapies that slow the progression of the condition, including:
- Low dose atropine (0.01%)
- Increased time outside and in the sun
- Vision therapy for people with stress-related myopia
- Orthokeratology, or wearing rigid gas permeable contacts to even out the curvature of the cornea
- Peripheral defocus modifying contact lenses, a type of contact lenses that focuses the sides of the retinas and corrects myopia.