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Myopia, also called nearsightedness, is a condition in which the eye cannot focus on objects that are long distances away. There are many degrees of myopia, and extreme myopia can lead to glaucoma or blindness in the most severe cases if left untreated. Myopia can be corrected with contact lenses or glasses, or a special kind of eye surgery.
Depending on the situation, a patient may choose one of three options for treatment of extreme myopia: glasses, contact lenses, or surgery. Glasses and contact lenses use a convex lens to refocus images back onto the retina. Surgery used to take the form of radial keratotomy, but modern surgery to correct severe myopia is mostly laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, or LASIK. Another form of corrective surgery is called photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, which is very similar to LASIK but less common.
Eyeglasses and contact lenses may be cumbersome, but surgery carries with it its own set of potential complications. Virtually the only risk for eyeglass wearers is the possibility of losing or breaking them, and being stranded in a situation without proper eyesight. Contact lens wearers have an added layer of risk in that they are more prone to infection. A 2006 analysis by WebMD stated that those who used contact lenses had a 1% chance of developing a serious eye infection during 30 years of use. LASIK surgery complications are very rare, but might exacerbate decreased eyesight.
Myopia can be mild, moderate, or severe, and the degree is measured in terms of diopters. Special equipment focuses distant images on the eye and then measures where they land. Mild and moderate cases are -6 diopters or less, with extreme myopia being a case of more than -6 diopters.
People with extreme myopia are much more likely to experience complications from the condition. These include retinal detachment, an increased likelihood of cataracts, glaucoma and even blindness. Degenerative myopia occurs when the eye continues to elongate throughout a person’s life, making the condition worse and worse. Most extreme myopia cases are not degenerative.
Nearsightedness is understood to be a genetic disorder whereby images are focused in front of the retina in the eye instead of directly on it. As a result, a person is not able to see long distances, and will commonly squint to focus on an object more than a few inches away. Some argument has been made that the cause is more environmental than genetic, and may be the result of overuse of near sight.