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Is there a way to “fix” nearsightedness?

Close up of boys blue eyes

Currently, there is no cure for myopia (shortsightedness). Blurry vision caused by myopia can be corrected, and myopic progression can be slowed. But leading optometrists and ophthalmologists refer to these methods as myopia management, not as treatment or cures. 

Myopia is not an eye disease. It's a refractive error that is often caused by the eyeball growing too long during childhood. Myopia can also develop if the cornea and/or the lens of the eye are too curved. In rare cases, myopia can occur if the lens is too close to the cornea. 

Any of these factors can cause the light entering the eye to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it. This makes distant objects look blurry. 

Myopia correction

There are proven methods that can be prescribed by an eye doctor to correct myopia. Correction refers to corrective lenses and refractive surgery. Corrective lenses can provide clearer vision, but they only work while a person is wearing them. They do not cure the causes of myopia.

Prescription spectacles and contact lenses can also relieve some of the symptoms related to shortsightedness, including: 

Once myopia has stabilised (usually by the age of 24), refractive surgery may be an option. LASIK and other types of laser eye surgery are effective long-term corrections for myopia. But even surgery is not a cure for the causes of myopia. In some cases, some degree of myopia can return after surgery.

Myopia control

There are also proven methods to help slow or halt the progression of myopia. These methods are called myopia control. Myopia control is best achieved during early childhood using options such as:

  • Myopia control spectacles

  • Myopia control contact lenses

  • Atropine eye drops (currently being trialed in the UK)

  • Lifestyle changes (increased time outdoors and decreased prolonged near work)

Myopia control is necessary because myopia can progress to high myopia, which can result in potentially blinding complications, including: 

Myopia control spectacles and contact lenses are not the same as standard prescription lenses. They are special multifocal lenses that can slow the eye growth that leads to myopia.

These lenses have shown success in slowing myopia progression. And newer, even more effective designs are constantly being developed. Examples of these newer designs include: 

Orthokeratology (also called ortho-k) has also been successful in myopia management and control. Orthokeratology lenses reshape the cornea during sleep, temporarily correcting myopia. But ortho-k is not a cure for myopia. The contact lenses must be worn regularly at night, or the myopia and blurry vision will return.

Atropine eye drops are used in low doses for myopia control. Scientists do not fully understand how they work, but they show the greatest success in slowing the eye growth related to myopia. This form of myopia control is still being trialed in the UK and so is not readily available at this time.

Lifestyle factors also play a part in myopia control. Keeping good visual habits is essential to reducing the risk of developing myopia. Leading doctors recommend spending at least 90 minutes outdoors per day. They also recommend taking frequent breaks during prolonged near work activities.

If you want to learn more about myopia correction and control, schedule an eye examination with a specialist optometrist.

Beth Longware Duff also contributed to this article.

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