Is worsening of nearsightedness (myopia) preventable?

Originally Published: June 17, 2005
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Dear Alice,

How do you prevent your eyes from getting more nearsighted? Is there a way?

Dear Reader,

Nearsightedness, or myopia, is when a person is unable to see far off objects, for example, when watching a movie in a theatre, reading the chalkboard in class, or reading road signs while driving. Nearsightedness is a common condition resulting from a relative excessive lengthening of the globe of the eye. As people age, their risk of developing myopia increases.

Once nearsightedness develops, it's likely going to be around for a lifetime. Luckily, nearsightedness can be corrected in a number of ways. One can see an optometrist or ophthalmologist for an eye exam and be prescribed corrective lenses (eyeglasses or contacts) to see far away objects more clearly. However, nearsightedness may worsen. It is important to receive regular eye exams to determine that the strength of the corrective eyewear is still right.

If a person does not want to wear corrective lenses, s/he may want to explore Lasik surgery. Lasik is a much more expensive option in the short-run. Since Lasik is a relatively new treatment, only time will tell if it corrects one's vision permanently. With recent developments in the Lasik procedure, people with serious astigmatism (poor vision usually due to a problem with the shape of the cornea) are also candidates. If the Lasik procedure sounds appealing, the first step is to have a complete consultation with a trained, reputable, certified Lasik surgeon to determine eligibility and learn more about possible side effects, such as blurry vision and problems seeing at night.

Even with corrective eyewear or Lasik, performing eye exercises can help to preserve one's vision. An individual can help relax and strengthen his/her eyes in the following ways:

  • While reading, keep the book as far away from the eyes as possible, but still within range of being able to see the text clearly.
  • Frequently stare into the distance to relax eye muscles.
  • Focus on objects one eye at a time, to strengthen the muscles of each eye. Many books on this subject are available. You can also read the "sight savers" section of Alice's Computer hazards answer for tips on adequately resting your eyes when working in front of a computer.

If someone is worried about his/her vision due to blurriness, difficulty seeing, discomfort, or pain in the eye(s), s/he can consult an ophthalmologist. This medical eye specialist can examine and diagnose the condition, if there is one, and then determine appropriate treatment. A person can also discuss preferences concerning corrective lenses, eyeglasses, or potentially, Lasik surgery. Nearsightedness cannot be stopped from developing, but it could be contained from worsening and corrected with regular medical and personal management of the condition.

Check out the following resource for more info:

International Myopia Prevention Association
Alice