Myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness, is becoming more and more prevalent across the world. This vision problem causes objects that are far away to appear blurry and out-of-focus. Most of the time, myopia can be easily fixed with glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery such as LASIK or PRK. However, the condition can also increase the risk of certain eye health conditions such as retinal tears or detachments, glaucoma, or the early development of cataracts. Because myopia is becoming increasingly common, especially among American children, this public health concern has the attention of eye care providers.
We have briefly discussed how certain myopia control techniques, such as orthokeratology, can help slow or stop the progression of nearsightedness. But what actually causes this vision problem? Why do some people become much more nearsighted than others? Is there anything that can be done to completely prevent myopia? Continue reading to learn more about how this condition develops.
The Role of Genetics in Myopia
We know that genetics and family history play a large role in the development of nearsightedness. Children with one nearsighted parent are more likely to develop myopia than children with no nearsighted parents, and children with two nearsighted parents are even more likely to develop the condition. If parents have moderate to high amounts of myopia, their children are also at risk to develop large amounts of nearsightedness. There are studies that suggest that race can impact the development of the condition, with Asian and Hispanic children being more likely to become myopic. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to change genes and their role in myopia development. However we can consider these risk factors and ensure that children who are more at-risk for developing myopia are being examined early and regularly. These children may also be great candidates for intervention with options such as myopia control.
Environmental Factors in Nearsightedness
Factors such as environment, behavior, and visual habits can also play a role in the development of myopia. We know that prolonged and extensive near work, such as homework or reading, is associated with a higher prevalence of nearsightedness, so children with more extensive visual demands may be at higher risk for developing myopia. For this reason, many eye care providers are considering ways to help relax the focusing system of the eye in school-aged children in order to prevent further development of nearsightedness. There are also some studies that suggest factors like time outdoors and exposure to natural sunlight may be beneficial in reducing myopic development.
While there is still much we do not know about the development of myopia, eye care providers are focusing on ways to decrease the prevalence of this condition in order to improve quality of life and promote better ocular health. That is why myopia control options have gained popularity as nearsightedness becomes more and more common. If you are concerned about the development of nearsightedness in yourself or a family member, talk to your optometrist about ways to address this problem.