What is myopia?

Myopia is a common vision problem where someone can only focus on objects that are close to them. This is why it is called being nearsighted. Myopia is not an eye disease; it is an optical error that prevents a person’s eye from focusing in certain ways.

What is happening is that your lens brings the light entering your eye into focus before it reaches the retina. This is usually because your eyeball is slightly too long, rather than a misshapen lens itself. In ideal vision, the focal length of your eye is the same length as the eyeball. In myopia neither lens nor eyeball is ‘broken’, they’re just not working together as a matched set.

Myopia Diagram

How common is Myopia?

Extremely common. Some estimates of the proportion of the population with myopia exceed 40 percent. Some countries, such as Singapore, have myopia rates exceeding 70 per cent.

Over recent decades this percentage has also been increasing. While genetics play a role, there is great debate about environmental causes.

While time spent on ‘close work’ such as on computers is not conclusively shown to have an effect, it hints at a deeper cause.

There is a lot of evidence that can be summed up as ‘use it or lose it’. That is, frequent exposure to diverse visual settings – combinations of sunlight, darkness, near, far, moving, still, simple and chaotic – throughout childhood and adulthood has a significant role in reducing myopia.

What are the symptoms?

Some symptoms of myopia include:

  • inability to focus on things that are far away
  • eye strain
  • squinting
  • distorted vision
  • headaches.
what is myopia

Treatment options for Myopia

Treatment for myopia depends on severity.

For minor cases, visual aids that change the focal length of the lens are useful. These include:

  • glasses
  • contact lenses.

For more severe cases a surgical solution can be undertaken. These include:

Do note: a permanent surgical treatment should not be undertaken if the condition has not stabilised. This usually occurs when the patient is in their mid-20s.