The number of people with myopia – also known as nearsightedness – is on the rise. According to the National Eye Institute, myopia has increased from 25 percent of the U.S. population in the early 1970s to nearly 42 percent by 2004. Researchers predict that, by 2050, half of the world’s population will be nearsighted.
If you can see things clearly up close, but have a tough time seeing things in the distance, you might be nearsighted. For people with myopia, the curve of the cornea, the surface of the eye, is too steep or the eyeball is too long. The result is light coming into the eye is focused in front of the retina instead of directly on it, causing images to be blurry. Because the eye grows throughout childhood, myopia typically develops in school-age children and adolescents and stabilizes around age 20.
While genetics can play a key role in whether or not someone develops myopia, environmental factors can contribute to poor vision as well. Many doctors and researchers believe that the lack of outdoor activity is a key cause, with sunshine stimulating a child’s retina to release dopamine, which makes the eye grow properly for correct vision. Another theory related to exposure to sunlight is the production of vitamin D – not enough time outdoors can lead to a deficiency of this nutrient which is important to eye development and health. Studies also suggest that eyestrain resulting from long periods of close-up work, such as staring at computer screen or smartphones, can change the shape of the eye.
But whether its genetics or a digital lifestyle, we are seeing the results in more people with distance vision issues. The question is, what should you be doing about it? Here are few tips:
Annual Eye Exams. These visits are an important part of your health, because your eyes and vision play an important role in keeping you safe! Keeping tabs on the health of your eyes and any changes to your vision is the priority in your annual exam. Be sure to bring up any changes in your vision and any symptoms such as headaches, eye fatigue or squinting. If it is time for your annual visit, we work with an amazing network of primary eye care providers that would love to meet with you and help.
Vision Correction Options. At your visit, we will talk about your needs and options for vision correction. For nearsightedness, this usually begins with glasses and then, perhaps contact lenses. However, once your prescription has stabilized for a year or so, the options expand to include laser vision correction procedures like LASIK, that permanently reshape the cornea to improve the eye’s focusing ability so you don’t have to rely on glasses or contacts.
Increase Outdoor Time. Getting outside is good for everyone, regardless of age.
But for children, spending more time outdoors can potentially reduce their risk of developing myopia. Encourage your child to spend more time engaging in outdoor activities each day.
Take Eye Breaks.Take a break every 20-30 minutes from working on the computer or mobile device. Look away from the screen, stretch or walk into the next room to give your eyes a break. Be sure to blink and give your vision some exercise by gazing at an object 20 feet or more in the distance.
At Parkhurst NuVision, we pride ourselves on working closely with you to help you have the vision you want for the life you live.