Myopia, also referred to as nearsightedness, is a vision condition that causes far-away objects to appear blurry while objects near to you remain fully visible. Myopia is a refractive error, meaning the eye doesn’t bend (refract) light the way it’s supposed to. As a result, the eye focuses images at the front of your retina rather than on your retina. Someone with myopia can clearly see an object in their hand but would likely struggle to read something like a road sign or billboard in the distance.
Myopia is an increasingly common condition in the U.S., affecting more than 4 out of 10 Americans. Given the significant number of people with myopia, there isn’t a clear-cut typical myopia patient. However, some studies have found a higher rate of myopia and high myopia among women than men. In terms of age, myopia usually first occurs in school-age children, progressing until approximately age 20. That said, there are cases in which an adult develops myopia due to other factors, which are discussed below.
Symptoms of Myopia
The common symptoms of myopia include:
- Far-away objects appearing blurry
- Eyestrain-related headaches
- Difficulty seeing while driving (especially at night)
- Needing to squint to see clearly
It’s important to note that myopia typically first occurs in young children, who may struggle to articulate or identify their own symptoms. If you suspect that your child may have myopia, look out for these indicators:
- Excessive blinking and squinting
- Unawareness of objects in the distance
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Needing to sit closer to the TV
If you or your child present any of these symptoms, it may be time to schedule an eye examination with an optometrist.
How Does Myopia Develop?
Myopia is caused by a refractive error, meaning the light that enters your eye does not focus correctly on your retina due to the structure of the eye. This could mean your eyeball is too long or short, or your cornea is too curved, flat, unable to change shape.
Your likelihood of developing this condition is based on a few factors, though the most notable is genetics. If one or both of your parents has myopia, your risk of having the condition increases. According to some studies, spending very little time outdoors may also increase your risk of developing myopia.
Other factors can cause people to develop myopia as adults. If you have a profession in which you do a lot of near-vision work, overusing your eyes’ focusing mechanism in the process, you could gradually reduce your distance vision. You may also experience myopia as a symptom of a different health issue, such as the development of a cataract or varied blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Low Myopia vs. High Myopia
Myopia can be mild or severe, low or high myopia, respectively. High myopia is defined as myopia with a refractive error greater than -6 that stabilizes between 20-30 years old. This condition is associated with an increased risk of degenerative changes in the retina, cataracts, glaucoma, and other eye-related health issues. However, your vision can be corrected through various treatment options.
Laser Vision Surgery Options for Myopia
If your nearsightedness is confirmed by an optometrist, treatment options you can pursue include non-surgical options, such as eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, there are also surgical options if you’re interested in a more permanent solution. To help you determine which options are best for you, we’ve provided general information on four of the most popular laser vision and refractive surgery treatment options, including LASIK, Visian ICL, photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), and refractive lens exchange (RLE).
All-laser LASIK, also referred to as bladeless LASIK, is a very popular elective surgical procedure used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. While some surgeons perform LASIK with a mechanical blade, the latest excimer and femtosecond lasers used at nJoy Vision are more precise and cause as little damage as possible to your cornea.
Once the eye is numbed by anesthetic drops, the surgeon uses a femtosecond laser to create a flap in the top layer of the cornea. The surgeon then pulls back the flap and uses a laser to carefully reshape the cornea, correcting the refractive error. The surgery only takes approximately 15 minutes, and your vision may improve immediately or gradually over the next couple of days as the eye heals.
Visian ICL™ is an Implantable Collamer® Lens. This surgically implanted contact lens is ideal for patients who are not eligible for LASIK due to having thin corneas, dry eye, or high myopia. The Visian ICL is implanted in the cornea during a 20-30 minute procedure. While LASIK permanently alters the shape of your cornea, Visian ICL can be removed if necessary.
Visian ICL is ideal for myopia patients who are between the ages of 21 and 45 and have no history of eye disease. You may not be eligible for Visian ICL if you fall outside that criteria or if you’ve experienced significant changes in your vision over the last six months.
Photorefractive Keratectomy is a minimally invasive treatment for myopia. Like LASIK, PRK involves the precise reshaping of the cornea using lasers. However, with PRK, there is no flap created in the top layer of the cornea. Instead, that thin top layer, the epithelium, is gently removed.
Once the cornea is reshaped, a type of bandage is placed on the cornea until the top layer grows back, which usually takes about 2-4 days. After PRK, your vision may improve in over 30-90 days. This procedure is ideal for those with thin corneas who are not good candidates for LASIK.
Refractive Lens Exchange is a procedure used to treat nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. It involves implanting a specialized intraocular lens (IOL) to replace the natural lens. This treatment is ideal for people ages 45 and older that may be experiencing age-related vision issues, such as myopia.
During an RLE procedure, a surgeon will use an image-guided femtosecond laser to create a precisely sized opening in the cornea. This allows them to replace the natural lens with an IOL, eliminating the need for reading glasses or contacts. RLE is very similar to LASIK, except it’s primarily intended for people experiencing presbyopia or age-related vision loss.
Which Myopia Treatment Is Right for You?
These treatments are better suited to some patients than others. That’s why it’s important to speak to a professional about which option may be best for treating your myopia. If you have any questions about laser vision correction, we encourage you to speak to your optometrist or schedule a free nJoy Vision consultation to see which refractive surgery treatment option is best for you.