Short-sightedness is perhaps one of the most prevalent eye problems, currently affecting 1 in 3 people globally. The numbers do not appear to go down any time soon as reports show an expected rise of those affected to about 5 billion people by the end of 2050. The problem gradually became a menace by affecting the productivity of those affected and significantly affecting the economy.
Myopia, otherwise known as short-sightedness or nearsightedness, is a condition caused by a refractive error in the eye that compromises one’s ability to see distant objects. Essentially, the refractive error results when the eye’s axial length grows too long or the optical power of the cornea rises too high. Most opticians will test for short-sightedness first before proceeding to other examinations. A short-sighted person cannot see objects that are more than 0.5 meters away clearly. Short-sightedness can develop in all people from any age bracket but is prevalent in primary school children. (Mostly those between 8 to 14 years old). A smaller population develops myopia between 6 to 72 months. Unfortunately, the younger a person acquires the condition, the most likely it will develop into severe myopia.
The severity of myopia is measured in diopter (D) and categorized into three stages, namely;
- Low myopia(from -0.5D to -2.99D)
- Moderate myopia( from -3.00D to -5.99D)
High myopia(-6.00D and above)
High myopia may lead to other vision-threatening conditions such as myopic macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and glaucoma. In a worst-case scenario, these conditions may cause irreversible blindness.
Cause of Short-sightedness
The causes of myopia are not far-fetched as it can be the effect of several environmental factors or genetically influenced. Here is a brief overview of these factors.
1. Genetic factors
Although several genes have been linked to myopia, none of them aid in explaining how myopia develops. Research finds that children born to parents with the condition were at a higher risk of developing it than those whose parents do not have myopia.
2. Environmental factors
The kind of lifestyle people mainly influences the environment they choose to live in. It is not a surprise that short-sightedness is becoming more common since most people spend their time near work activities such as screen time and reading books.
The fact that most activities are continuously automated is not helping the situation either, especially in younger children. Children spend very little time on outdoor activities and more time in front of a digital screen, thus putting them at a higher risk.
In a nutshell, there are two categories of people marked as high-risk groups; People who engage in higher device screen time per day and those exposed to digital devices at very young ages.
Signs and Symptoms of short-sightedness
The symptoms of myopia may appear mild at first but eventually develop into more serious signs. They include;
- Eye discomfort which may cause excessive blinking
- Straining to see distant objects or constantly holding books and devices too close
- Frequent headaches
- Distant objects appear blurry
- Squinting while focusing on distant objects
Myopia control and treatment
Although there is no cure for myopia, there are various treatment options to aid in slowing down its progression and help a short-sighted person experience a clearer vision. They include the following;
- Spectacles- have concave lenses that correct myopia by focusing light rays into the retina. However, they do not slow down myopia progression but rather facilitate clearer vision.
- Contact lenses- These work more or less as spectacles and are placed directly on the eye.
- Refractive surgery-also referred to as refractive surgery, uses lasers to reshape the cornea.
- Atropine eye drops– atropine may help to slow down myopia progression in children by dilating the pupil and suppressing the ability to shift focus from distant to near objects and vice versa.
- Orthokeratology- wearing rigid contact lenses while sleeping to reshape the cornea.
It is vital to always take care of your general eye health. The best way to reduce chances of acquiring myopia is by engaging in more outdoor activities, reducing screen time and using devices appropriately, sleeping well, and regularly going for eye checks.
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