Australians can’t afford to be shortsighted about eye health, with expert forecasts showing more than half the world’s population are likely to develop myopia by 2050 and a huge one billion people significantly at risk of blindness.
Myopia—otherwise known as shortsightedness or nearsightedness—already affects around one quarter of Australians, with a further two billion people worldwide suffering from the highly prevalent eye condition.
But a joint study conducted by the Brien Holden Vision Institute shows this number will increase rapidly during the next 30 years, with around four billion people across the globe— including 22 million in Australia and New Zealand—developing the condition.
Furthermore, myopia comes with an increased risk of developing glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration, with around one in 10 people in danger of going blind altogether.
What is it?
Our vision is the result of a complex set of interconnected processes, which begin when light rays enter the eye and are refracted or bent by the cornea.
If a person’s eyeball is too long, or their cornea is too steep, the refracted light rays may focus in front of the retina instead of on it, making objects that are further away from the eye appear blurry. When this occurs, a person is said to be myopic, or shortsighted.
Signs and symptoms
Myopia will often develop during early childhood and continue to worsen until the late teens, however some adults may not be affected until they are between the ages of 20 and 40.
The most obvious sign of shortsightedness is an increased difficulty in seeing objects or reading words as they get further away from the eye.
While there is no conclusive evidence of the exact cause of the condition, a number of studies have theorised that genetics and too much time spent on “near work”—such as using a computer frequently and for extended periods of time—could be contributing factors.
Think you may be suffering from myopia? Book your free consultation with NewVision Clinics now.
Without definitively knowing what causes myopia, it is impossible to determine how to prevent its onset.
However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests increased time spent outdoors can help reduce the incidence of the condition.
The Sydney Myopia Study examined changes in the eye health of more than 4000 children over a five year period. The findings suggested that those children who spent more time exposed to sunlight outdoors were less likely to develop myopia—good news for those who like to get out and about.
Never too late
For anyone already past their primary school years, these findings appear to have come too late.
But just because you have already been diagnosed with shortsightedness doesn’t mean you have to live with the consequences forever.
While prescription glasses and contact lenses temporarily correct the refractive error whenever you are wearing them, increasing numbers of people are seeking out specialised eye surgeons—such as NewVision Clinics founder and laser eye surgery pioneer Dr Noel Alpins AM—to explore more permanent treatment options.
Millions of former spectacle wearers worldwide have benefited from laser eye surgery, with NewVision Clinics alone performing more than 20,000 vision-correcting procedures at its Melbourne surgeries.
There are several different types of laser eye surgery available, however the outcome for patients is the same: independence from prescription glasses or contacts.
Unfortunately, misconceptions around the cost of surgery and recovery times, as well as an unfounded fear of pain related to the procedure, are still holding some people back from experiencing this effective and efficient solution to eye conditions such as myopia.
LASIK (Laser-Assisted-In-Situ-Keratomileusis) eye surgery is a safe and non-invasive procedure that has been performed on more than 35 million people across the globe.
More than 80 per cent of patients undergo this treatment as it offers the least discomfort and fastest recovery time of any of the laser eye procedures available.
Taking just 15 to 20 minutes for both eyes, surgeons create a thin flap on the front surface of the eye. This allows a cool beam of light from an excimer laser to sculpt the corneal tissue into a new shape to correct the refractive error.
The surgeon then gently replaces the flap and aligns it to its original position, where it heals naturally and rapidly, with most people experiencing 20:20 vision by the morning after surgery.
A convenient and effective solution, it also allows patients to return to their normal work routines and leisure activities within 48 hours.
The other surgical option is Advanced PRK, also referred to as Advanced Surface Laser Ablation or ASLA.
Developed in the 1980s, it involves the surgeon gently polishing away the outer skin of the eye before using a laser light beam to reshape the corneal tissue.
A ‘bandage’ contact lens is placed on the eye to promote comfort and healing, with the surface skin growing back during the next few days.
The experienced and caring team at NewVision Clinics can assess your condition to determine the most appropriate type of surgery for you. Payment options and health fund rebates are also available.
Call 1800 20 20 20 to book your free assessment and take the first step towards a whole new outlook on life.
Article written by Michelle Meehan