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What is Myopic Degeneration?

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What is Myopic Degeneration?

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Myopic degeneration is a condition in which the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells that lines the back of the eye, is weakened by the gradual stretching of the eye. Myopic degeneration is more likely in people who have severe nearsightedness (high myopia).

This typically occurs in early adulthood which can lead to a gradual decrease in central vision but may occur more abruptly in a small number of individuals. If left unchecked, certain other eye conditions may develop leading to further loss of vision. 

The following information will help you identify some key side effects and treatment options.

Causes of Myopic Degeneration

Although not fully understood, there are two main theories that relate to the cause of myopic degeneration:

  • Biomechanical abnormalities. This theory assumes that in a myopic eye, the retina is stretched over a larger than normal area because the eye is longer in shape than it typically would be.
  • Hereditary. This theory states that retinal changes are unavoidable and an inherited trait.

Side Effects

Retinal tears leading to retinal detachment may occur over time due to the elongation of the eye, stretching, and thinning of the retina. Individuals suffering from myopia that experience new flashes of light, “floaters”, “curtains” or “veils”, or loss of vision should see an ophthalmologist right away.

Retinal Tears & Detachments

Where the thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye separates from the blood vessels that provide it with oxygen and nutrients.

Flashes, Floaters, Curtains, & Veils 

Flashes of light may occur in 1 or both eyes along with the appearance of visual floaters. Curtains and veils occur when vision seems partially blocked by dark or grey shapes moving across the visual field.

Choroidal neovascularization (abnormal vessels growing directly under the center of the retina in an area known as the macula) can also occur and contribute to the loss of central vision. Early diagnosis and treatment can help to minimize the amount of vision loss, which is why people with myopic degeneration should have their vision monitored by an ophthalmologist regularly.

Other side effects may include:

  • Glaucoma (elevated pressure in the eye causing damage to the optic nerve and loss of peripheral vision), where symptoms may include blurred vision, headaches, halos around lights, and difficulty adapting to darkness
  • Cataracts (clouding of the eye’s natural lens), where symptoms may also include blurred vision and halos around lights, as well as the reduced vibrancy of colors and glare
  • Lattice degeneration (when the far edges of your retina start to experience thinning and exhibit stretch marks)
  • Lacquer cracks (breaks in the thin membrane between the retina and the underlying blood supply, called Bruch’s membrane)
  • Retinal and retinal epithelial pigment atrophy (where support cells of your retina become thin and die, leading to loss of vision)

Thankfully most of these conditions can be spotted by your eye doctor just by going for regular eye exams. 

A woman removing her glasses in order to squint and look closer at a book that she is attempting to read.

Treatment

Methods employed to slow the worsening of myopic degeneration are often referred to as “myopia control”. Some of these methods include:

Orthokeratology 

The use of specialized contact lenses during sleep helps temporarily correct short-sightedness and other vision problems.

Specially Designed Contact Lenses

Include multifocal contacts that have different powers in different zones of the lens.

Atropine Eye Drops

Typically given as eye drops at bedtime to slow the progression of myopia in children.

Multifocal Glasses

Specialty glasses where the upper portion of the lens provides clearer vision far away, and the lower portion for objects that are near.

Myopia control is a good option to consider. If you or your child have myopic eyes, speak to your eye doctor about treatment options that may help to preserve your vision.

Being that myopia tends to progress more in the early years, it’s important to attend regular eye exams and go through available options for treatment with your eye doctor. 

As with most eye conditions, it’s best to spot any warning signs early on because the effects of myopic degeneration can not be reversed. If spotted in childhood, vision-loss progression may be slowed 

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