More than 34 million Americans over the age of 40 have myopia, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Severe myopia is called “high myopia,” and it may lead to serious vision problems. Read on to learn more about what is considered high myopia and how it's treated.
What is Myopia?
Myopia is another name for nearsightedness. When you're nearsighted, you can see nearby objects clearly, but objects in the distance appear blurry. According to the National Eye Institute, myopia occurs when your eyeball is too long or the curve of your cornea or lens is irregular. This causes light rays to bend incorrectly, focusing images in front of your retina instead of on it. Anyone can have myopia, but the risk increases if you have family members who are myopic, too. It usually starts between the ages of 6 and 14 and may get worse until your early 20s.
“Leaving myopia unmanaged may contribute to severe eye health complications later in life, including cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration, so it’s important to slow the progression of myopia during the rapid growing years of eyes,” Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD, an optometrist at Bright Eyes in Tampa, tells WebMD Connect to Care. Doctors frequently use glasses and contacts to treat myopia, and LASIK is an option for some adults as well.
What is High Myopia?
Doctors generally define high myopia as nearsightedness of -6 diopters or higher, according to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus. The Association also notes that high myopia often occurs in people with very long eyes, and typically appears during early childhood. “Studies have shown that the earlier the onset of myopia, the more likely a child is to become highly myopic,” Warford adds.
High myopia can also develop during adulthood as a result of visual stress or diabetes, according to the American Optometric Association. Doctors can treat high myopia with prescription glasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery. However, it's important to note that laser surgery is not an option for children with the condition.
If you have high myopia, it is very important to have regular eye exams with an ophthalmologist. The American Academy of Ophthalmology notes that high myopia can increase your risk of severe vision problems such as retinal detachment, vitreous floaters, cataracts, and glaucoma. Regular visits to your eye doctor can help you detect and treat any complications early.
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