Hi, my name is Shanna and I wanted to share my myopia story for Myopia Awareness Week.
My husband and I live in the USA and are parents to 5 young daughters. Our eldest daughter is 12-years-old and has been diagnosed with near-sightedness since she was in second grade.
I myself started wearing glasses when I was in the 8th grade and, like everyone else I know who is myopic (near-sighted/short-sighted), my prescription became worse and worse every year, even well into my twenties and early thirties. My myopia has deteriorated to -9.00 diopters in the right eye, and -4.75 diopters in the left.
I once thought myopia was a relatively benign condition and that it was just a part of life, especially someone like me who studied a lot and worked on a computer all day. I even thought LASIK or similar eye surgery would correct my vision one day and then I wouldn’t have to worry about contacts and glasses.
My opinion changed abruptly when, still in my thirties, I developed a vision-threatening condition called myopic macular degeneration. No one, in the 25 years that I had been going to the optometrist, had told me about the kinds of serious problems my myopia could cause.
My retina is now permanently scarred near my central vision and since that event I have developed more problems with my eyes.
The scarring in my retina has caused distortion and blurriness in my vision that will never go away. More recently I also developed a posterior vitreous detachment — I started seeing flashes in the corners of my vision and then there were cobwebs everywhere! Thankfully no retinal detachment, yet.
All these problems happened to me because my eyeball is long. That is what myopia really means — your eyeball is too long for the image inside the eye to focus in the right place, hence the need for correction to change the focal point.
So every year that my prescription got worse, my eyeball (the axial length, to be exact) was getting longer and longer. This placed stress on the retina, the thin layer of tissue at the back of your eye that allows you to see.
Eventually this extra stress may lead to myopic macular degeneration, choroidal neovascularization, posterior vitreous detachment, and retinal detachment. You cannot get a new retina. Once it is damaged, it is permanent.
This eye condition has been life changing for me and I desperately wanted to prevent this from happening to my own children. Hence I started doing my own research about how to prevent near-sightedness.
During my research I came across a lot of gimmicky techniques on the internet with false promises. Then I went to the American Academy of Ophthalmology website and found conference proceedings on myopia management. I watched the proceedings and learned everything I could, which was basically that eyeball elongation CAN be slowed down. Myopia CAN be controlled.
You cannot reverse myopia, but you can slow it down. I learned that increased outdoor time, orthokeratology, multifocal contact lenses, and low-dose atropine have all been shown to slow down the progression of myopia.
I took this information to our optometrist and tried to get a prescription for low-dose atropine for my daughter. Because he was unfamiliar with the research, he refused to prescribe it. Searching the internet I found optometrists in other parts of the country who were practicing myopia management, but none near me.
I called them anyway hoping they knew of any doctor nearby who could help. They did not, but they were willing to share their own myopia control protocols with me, which I then shared with a local optometrist who would prescribe us the low-dose atropine eye drops and special multifocal contact lenses.
Our daughter now wears NaturalVue multifocal contact lenses in the daytime and uses low-dose atropine drops at night. Her vision has remained steady for the last two years. It was a lot of work for me to do the research, learning about myopia treatments, and to find a doctor willing to participate in myopia management.
If you as a parent can locate an optometrist in your area who practices myopia management then this will be a breeze for you and your child. But if your optometrist cannot provide the myopia treatments you child needs, it’s worth doing the research to find one who can.
I know that if I can save my children a few diopters of prescription by the time they reach adulthood, then I have done my job in terms of their eye health.
While my eye condition was awful, I often think of it as a blessing and I am actually thankful for the trial. Had it not happened to me, my child would still be wearing single-vision glasses, which some research shows makes your near-sightedness worse.
Instead, we are actively fighting myopia and preserving her vision in hopes of a lifetime of good eyesight.
I hope my story can help other parents out there with near-sighted children and encourage them to learn more about this condition and find out about the treatments available to slow the progression of their children’s myopia.
Shanna was very kind to share her personal myopia story with me, which is published here with her permission. The author has no commercial disclosures.