Being a highly short-sighted optometrist (a -9.00!) helps me to better understand the trials and tribulations of highly myopic patients. Having worn glasses from the age of four, I can fully understand a complete reliance on glasses or contact lenses - like when I'm blindly reaching around on my nightstand to find my glasses or the times I've taken my contact lenses out before locating my glasses first!
SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS, OR MYOPIA, IS WHERE DISTANT OBJECTS APPEAR BLURRED AND CLOSER OBJECTS CAN BE SEEN MORE CLEARLY.
Short-sightedness is becoming more and more prevalent nowadays, where 1 in 3 people are affected by it with varying degrees.
Why does short-sightedness occur?
Short-sightedness usually occurs when the eyes grow slightly too long.
This means that light doesn't focus on the light-sensitive tissue (retina) at the back of the eye properly. Instead, the light rays focus just in front of the retina, resulting in distant objects appearing blurred.
One of the main causes of myopia is genetics (I blame my -10.00 dad!), if one or both of your parents are short-sighted you are likely to be too.
However, environmental factors can induce or worsen myopia too. It has been shown that children who spend more time doing near vision tasks (such as reading, writing or using phones or tablets) are more likely to be myopic. I loved drawing as a child so spent a lot of my time doodling rather than being outdoors (can't put all the blame on my dad). Encouraging children to spend more time outdoors looking at further distances can reduce the chances of myopia progression.
It is important to have your child's eyes tested early to pick up on problems such as myopia, my mum just thought I was a clumsy child and didn't realise I kept tripping over because I couldn't see much and needed glasses!
How can we treat short-sightedness?
Although myopia is not something we can cure, we can correct the short-sightedness with glasses or contact lenses, and in most cases we can get you seeing 20/20 with these options.
A common myth about glasses: Once I start wearing glasses my eyes will get worse.
The truth is you get used to a certain level of vision, and once you get glasses you realise you can see much better with them, most people will find they prefer wearing glasses more once they know they can see better.
Are there any other implications of being short-sighted?
Unfortunately, being short-sighted (especially high levels of short-sightedness) can put you at risk of certain eye conditions.
People with high levels of short-sightedness, are more at risk of retinal tears or detachments. This is because the eyeball is longer in a short-sighted person, so the retina is stretched inside the eye making it more likely to tear and detach. If left untreated this can cause loss of sight.
Symptoms of retinal tears or detachment include a sudden increase in floaters or large floaters, flashing lights in your vision or a permanent shadow in your peripheral vision. If you have any of these symptoms, you must have your eyes checked straight away, you can come see us or your local opticians, or you can go to you local eye casualty department at the hospital (If you're in London - this is Moorfields or the Western Eye Hospital). Retinal detachments can be treated but need to be caught early enough.
Studies have also shown short-sighted people are also more likely to develop glaucoma. Glaucoma is a manageable eye condition but again needs to be caught early to prevent sight loss, so regular eye tests are key!
Now, enough of the serious stuff, if you're newly short-sighted or like me, have worn glasses for most of your life - you are not alone! Visit us in Camden for a thorough OCT eye test, or even just to discuss the woes of myopia!
- Maya, Optometrist / Co-Founder Chakshu London