Often people who are new to my practice are surprised to find out that nearsightedness (myopia) is not supposed to get worse as a person ages. Myopia is usually caused by the axial length of the eye being too long. Parents with long eyes often have children with long eyes. While many cases of myopia are caused by genetics, genetics should only be blamed up to a certain point. Just as a person stops growing taller in the teenage years, the eyes should also stop growing at that time. So you may wonder why so many of us continue to get more nearsighted as adults?
Recent research seems to indicate that they eyes have some ability to adapt to the demands of their environment. Repetitive movements may make other parts of our bodies stronger or weaker, depending on the situation. The same may hold true for our eyes. Parents tell their children that reading in poor light will ruin our their eyes. I agree with the idea, except I would not use the word "ruin". I prefer to say the eyes become more nearsighted simply because we are asking them to focus on something near for prolonged periods of time.
In my 20+ years of practice here in Fishers I have seen many people become more nearsighted because of their job or habits. But I have also seen many people become less nearsighted when they change their job or habits. When someone I examine shows significant improvement, I try to discuss with them what they are doing to help their eyesight. I then try to share their experiences with others to help them get better eyesight too.
Which brings me to the point of this article. I want to share with you a few ideas which may improve myopia in certain people. If anyone reading this article has any further suggestions, please feel free to email your comments to me.
Upgrade your work station: High resolution monitors cause less eyestrain. If you need to view more than one window, consider adding a second monitor or a larger monitor.
Move the monitor back: The closer an object is to the eyes, the harder the eye muscles must work to maintain focus. Moving a monitor from 16 inches to 25 inches reduces the demand on the eyes by about 40%. Of course you may need to enlarge the font.
Take breaks from near tasks: In 1950 my father became myopic while in the Navy. He spent many months in the engine room. The Navy eye doctor told him he was nearsighted because he had nothing far away on which to focus. The human eye was designed to primarily focus at a distance, with short periods of near focus. The eye was not designed to stare at a monitor or smart phone for 10 hours per day. Every 20 minutes try to focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. The AOA calls this the 20/20/20 rule.
Replace your contact lenses regularly: The FDA tests contact lenses to determine a safe replacement schedule for each brand. An old or damaged contact lens may cause distortion to the cornea. This distortion may not cause any pain, so it is often ignored. Since the cornea is the strongest lens of the eye, a change in the shape of the cornea changes the eyeglass prescription.
Never wear damaged contacts to an eye exam: Some people wait until their last pair of contact lenses are weeks or months past due before scheduling an eye exam. By then the cornea could be so warped and swollen that the eyeglass prescription will be higher. When the contact lenses are left out for a few days the cornea often returns to normal. However an eye doctor may not be able to tell if such a change is temporary or permanent, so the patient is given the higher prescription.
Maintain a good pair of eyeglasses: If a contact lens wearer does not have glasses, he or she must wear their contacts to see. People will then wear their contacts even if their eyes are red and painful if their only other choice is blurry vision. Also, the eye muscles must work harder to focus when a nearsighted person is wearing contacts than when the same person is wearing glasses. So for reading at home it may be better to use glasses or no correction at all.
Avoid eye rubbing: Rubbing the eyes can cause distortion to the cornea. As I explained earlier, if the shape of the cornea changes, the eyeglass prescription changes too. To relieve itchy eyes, apply a cold compress for a few minutes, rinse them with artificial tears, or use topical antihistamine eye drops. Alaway and Zaditor are available without a prescription and work well.
Keep your hair out of your eyes: I have seen several individuals who wear their hair over one eye. Many times that eye has significantly worse astigmatism. Perhaps the mechanical irritation causes more eye rubbing.
Eat a healthy diet: I have seen patients of all ages improve their myopia after they began a healthy diet and exercise program. I will not speculate on the specific mechanism by which this improves vision.
Monitor your blood sugar: A high blood glucose will cause the lens inside your eye to gain power. This increase in nearsightedness often reverses itself if the blood sugar returns to normal.
I hope these tips help. If you have any questions or comments, please email me: Sigler@dr.com Thank you for your time and attention.