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Can myopia be cured?

Eye exercises and "improve your eyesight naturally" programs that promise a cure for myopia (shortsightedness) have been around for at least a century. But do they work?

The problem with these "miraculous" programs is that there is no scientific evidence or verifiable outcomes to back them up.

Proponents of these do-it-yourself vision correction programs claim myopia can be reversed with eye exercises, relaxation techniques and massaging the eyes. However, the only "proof" of effectiveness they offer for these so-called "myopia cures" are anecdotal testimonials provided by customers who purchased their product.

Most optometrists and vision researchers who have looked into these programs have dismissed them as ineffective and a waste of money.

Myopia is not an eye disease. It's a refractive error caused by the eyeball growing too long during childhood. When this occurs, light entering the eye fails to focus on the light-sensitive retina in the back of the eye. Instead, light is focused in front of the retina, which makes distant objects blurry.

Currently, there is no cure for shortsightedness but there are proven methods that can be prescribed by an optometrist to slow the progression of myopia during childhood. These myopia control methods include specially designed contact lenses and spectacle lenses.

Prescription glasses and contact lenses can correct the blurry distance vision caused by myopia. Glasses and contacts also can relieve associated signs and symptoms of shortsightedness, including headaches, eye strain and squinting. Clearly, corrective lenses only work while a person is wearing them so they are not a cure.

Once myopia has stabilised (usually sometime after age 18 to 20), LASIK and other laser eye surgery procedures are effective long-term treatments for shortsightedness but even surgery is not a cure for shortsightedness. In some cases, some degree of myopia can return after surgery.

Another option for the treatment of myopia is orthokeratology. This is the fitting of specially designed gas permeable contact lenses (called ortho-k lenses) for overnight wear. The lenses reshape the front surface of the eye (cornea) while you sleep, temporarily reversing myopia. You remove the lenses when you wake up and you can see clearly throughout the day without glasses or contact lenses.

Yet again, ortho-k is not a cure for myopia. The contact lenses must be worn regularly at night or the myopia and blurry vision will soon return.

If you or your child are shortsighted and you want to learn more about myopia control and treatment options, book an eye exam today with an optometrist near you.

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