NEARSIGHTEDNESS ON THE RISE
Myopia, or nearsightedness, affects more people now than ever before, especially children. In recent years myopia cases have jumped more than 20 percent. It’s estimated that over 40% of the population is nearsighted.
Nearsightedness means you can see the things near you clearly, but you have trouble seeing far away. So you can read a book well, but may have difficulty seeing road signs.
Myopia is generally caused by the way your eye is shaped – if your eyeball is elongated then this causes light to focus at a point that is in front of your retina, instead of on the retina’s surface.
Nearsightedness can also occur when your cornea or lens (or both) are curved a little too much.
IS IT TOO MUCH T.V.?
There are a lot of theories floating around out there about what has caused the increase in nearsightedness. For instance, several Australian studies suggested that playing outdoors could play a role in protecting a child against myopia, but only by a small margin, and there are other studies that indicated playing outdoors made no difference at all.
These studies tend to focus not just on outdoor play, but also on how much ‘near work’ children do – activities like reading or watching t.v. The problem is that not all of the studies classify near work the same way. Some studies don’t consider watching television near work – since not all children sit right in front of the t.v. This inconsistent classification, and the fact that parents and children may underestimate or overestimate how much near work actually occurs, makes it difficult to blame myopia entirely on the t.v. or an acute love of literature.
IS IT GENETIC?
Many scientists have simply attributed myopia to genetics. Several studies show that almost 80% of children in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Singapore are nearsighted, versus only 30 to 50 percent of children in the United States. However, Singapore is an incredibly racially diverse country and the myopia rates are similar for all of the ethnicities that live there, leading some scientists to conclude that the high rate of myopia in these Asian countries is related to environment and not genetics.
DO GLASSES MAKE YOU SMARTER?
Studies have concluded that myopic adults do tend to have higher levels of education (so that nerd-with-the-glasses stereotype is actually a little bit true), and scientists have theorized that all of that reading and studying may have contributed to these individuals having myopia. Working at a computer may also then have contributed to an increase in myopia cases, which correlates with the idea that screen time plays a role in the development of myopia – however, this is still just a theory and needs more study to be conclusive.
CAN YOU MAKE MYOPIA GO AWAY?
Treating myopia is relatively simple. Of course, glasses can correct the issue, as can contact lenses. Some people opt for refractive surgery which eliminates the needs for glasses or contacts.
LASIK surgery is also a popular option. With LASIK a laser removes some of the corneal tissue to help reshape the cornea.
There are other options as well, including a special type of contact lens (known as RGP or GP) that helps reshape the cornea while you sleep, so you don’t have to wear contacts during the day. This is a good option for children that are too young for LASIK, or for individuals unable to have LASIK surgery.
Another option is an implantable and permanent contact lens known as phakic IOLs. These lenses require surgery to be implanted but are a good option for those who can not have LASIK surgery.
Your optometrist can help you find the best solution for you or your child.
To schedule a comprehensive eye exam and to find out more about nearsightedness and its treatment please call Redding’s family-focused optometrist, Kristi Davis O.D., at 530-222-7271.
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