Nearsightedness, also called myopia, impacts more than 30-40 percent of the U.S. population. It’s a refractive error that occurs when light rays focus on the front of the retina (back of the eye) causing distant objects to be blurry. The good news is that can nearsightedness be corrected.
Do you sometimes wonder what your best options are for the treatment of nearsightedness? Let’s take a look at the most common paths of treatment.
Glasses for Correcting Nearsightedness
The easiest and most common way to correct myopia, especially with children, is with eyeglasses. Eyeglass lenses correct the angle at which light hits your retina. To arrive at the exact prescription for your lenses, an optometrist or ophthalmologist tests your vision with eye charts and focus exercises, and examines your eyes from several angles.
Contact Lenses for Nearsightedness
Vision tests and eye examinations determine the prescription for your lenses just as they do for glasses, and the contact lenses correct your vision in the same way, by changing the direction in which light enters the eye. The eye’s natural tears give contact lenses their ability to float on the cornea. The lenses can be vastly thinner than eyeglass lenses because of their proximity to the cornea. There are different types of contact lenses:
- Soft lenses: Soft lenses are made of very pliable soft plastic that flexes and adheres to the surface of your eye extremely easily (it can be easier to get used to soft lenses than to rigid ones.) They tend to cover a larger portion of your eye, covering the pupil and iris and extending into the white. Some soft lenses are meant to be taken out, cleaned, and stored overnight, and others are meant to be disposed of after being worn a certain number of times or for a certain time period, from a day to a few weeks.
- Rigid gas-permeable lenses: These are smaller lenses, generally covering the pupil and extending into the iris. They are made of thin, rigid plastic, like the name suggests, and look like small saucers when held on a fingertip. They also float on your tears, and oxygen travels through them to the surface of your eye. Occasionally a speck of dust or an eyelash gets between the lens and the eye, making it necessary to take the lens out, clean it, and put it back in. They generally are not meant to be slept in, although there are specific extended-wear types that allow this.
Correcting Nearsightedness with LASIK
Both eyeglasses and contact lenses correct your vision on a daily, temporary basis. They must be cleaned and/or replaced regularly, and your vision will not be clear when you’re not using them. For permanent correction of myopia, you will want to consider refractive surgery, which changes the eye permanently and usually requires no daily correction afterward. Options include:
- LASIK surgery: You’ve probably heard about LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis), the most common eye surgery procedure, which can correct nearsightedness and other refractive errors. This type of surgery changes the shape of the cornea – the round, front part of your eye – so that light travels through it and hits the retina correctly.
- PRK: Photorefractive keratectomy is similar to LASIK, but does not cut a flap from the front of the cornea. In this procedure, the laser corrects the shape of the eye directly on its surface. It can be a better procedure for someone whose cornea might be too thin for LASIK surgery.
- Implantable contact lenses: People with the highest level of nearsightedness may want to consider implantable contact lenses. In this procedure, a prescription lens is placed either between the cornea and the iris or just behind the iris.
- Cataract Surgery: Over time, the natural proteins in a person’s eye can begin to form a clump or cloudy spot on the natural lens. This causes vision distortion and loss, usually in people over 40. In cataract surgery, an ophthalmologist/surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a new, clear lens. In people with nearsightedness, the replacement lens can be made to prescription specifications to correct myopia.