Progressive myopia is nearsightedness that worsens year after year. If myopia progresses enough, it can result in high myopia, a severe degree of nearsightedness that increases the risk of developing several serious eye conditions.
The progression of myopia usually occurs during childhood and adolescence, but it can also continue into early adulthood. Progressive nearsightedness is often caused when an eyeball shape gets longer (from front to back) over time.
It isn’t fully understood why some nearsighted individuals develop progressive myopia and others do not. However, we do know that children with a severely nearsighted parent (or parents) have a higher risk of developing the condition.
Progressive myopia is a growing problem. In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated that 2.8% of the population suffered from high myopia. By 2050, they believe that figure will rise to 10% — nearly quadrupling in only 35 years.
All refractive errors of the eye, including myopia, are measured in diopters (D). Diopters are used to measure the corrective power of prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses.
High myopia usually is defined as a nearsightedness measurement of -6.00 D or greater. By comparison, mild myopia usually falls between -0.25 D and -3.00 D.
SEE RELATED: Bilateral myopia
People with progressive myopia are at a higher risk of developing certain eye conditions associated with the elongation of the eye and stretching of the retina — the thin layer of tissue in the back of the eye that “collects” light.
If these conditions develop and are left untreated, they can threaten part or all of your vision.
People with progressive myopia have a higher chance of developing:
People with progressive myopia are about five to six times more likely to suffer a retinal detachment, according to a study in the Community Eye Health Journal. This is because elongation of the eye causes stretching and thinning of the retina, which can result in rips in the peripheral retina and detachment of retinal tissue from the underlying layers of the eye’s interior.
Progressive myopia can increase a person’s risk of developing myopic macular degeneration. Like retinal detachment, myopic macular degeneration also happens as a result of retinal stretching and thinning. This form of macular degeneration affects how well you can see objects and colors in the center portion of your vision.
Characterized by elevated pressure in the eye, glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerves, the pathways between the eyes and the brain. Unfortunately, noticeable symptoms such as blurred vision, headaches, halos around lights, difficulty seeing in the dark and loss of peripheral vision don’t occur until the condition is advanced.
People with progressive and high myopia have a greater risk of developing cataracts than those who don’t. When cataracts do develop, they tend to occur earlier in life among those with high myopia. Symptoms include blurred vision, hazy vision, halos around lights, increased glare and reduced vibrancy of colors.
SEE RELATED: Is your child at risk for myopia?
Myopia control treatments are prescribed to slow or stop the timeline of progressive myopia. Options include:
Myopia control glasses
Other specially designed contact lenses
Atropine eye drops
If you think your child’s nearsightedness is getting worse, schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor to discuss any available myopia control options.
READ MORE: Can nearsightedness be cured?
Page updated January 2021