According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), more than 41 percent of the U.S. population has myopia (nearsightedness), making it the most common refractive error of the eye in the U.S. With more people being diagnosed with nearsightedness, there is a growing interest in how to limit or control its progression. Here, Los Angeles ophthalmologist Dr. Linda Vu discusses causes and treatment options for the condition.
What Causes Nearsightedness?
Refractive errors occur when the eye is not able to bend or refract light properly to see images clearly. In nearsightedness, near objects look clear but far objects appear blurred. Typically, nearsightedness occurs as a result of the eyeball growing too long. Nearsightedness typically begins in childhood. Individuals whose parents are nearsighted have a higher risk of developing the condition. Research shows that children who spend more time reading and using handheld electronic devices (e.g., smartphones and tablets) have an increased risk of developing nearsightedness. Children who spend less time outdoors have also been found to have an increased risk. Although nearsightedness can stabilize by the time someone reaches adulthood, it can sometimes continue to progress with age.
How to Limit Nearsightedness
Although there is no cure for nearsightedness, there are several treatments available to control and possibly slow the progression of the condition.
Multifocal glasses and contact lenses. Multifocal glasses and contacts use special lenses with different focusing powers in different zones to correct refractive errors, including nearsightedness. Research shows that conventional or modified multifocal soft contact lenses can be effective for controlling nearsightedness. Orthokeratology lenses have been shown in some studies to slow the progression of corneal changes in myopic eyes.
Medication. Researchers have found promising short-term results with low dose atropine eye drops. Topical atropine eye drops work by relaxing the eye’s focusing mechanism. Research shows topical atropine can disable the eye’s focusing mechanism to limit nearsightedness in children for up to a year.
Laser vision correction. Laser vision correction procedures like LASIK and PRK are used to treat refractive errors, including nearsightedness, in adults. The procedures utilize laser light to reshape the cornea so it can better refract light. Both LASIK and PRK are quick and effective procedures, and have high success rates in restoring clear vision and reducing dependence on prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, not everyone is an appropriate candidate for laser vision correction. Dr. Vu can discuss candidacy requirements with you during a personal consultation.
If you would like to learn more about myopia, including your treatment options, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Vu by calling (626) 382-2020 today.