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Can myopia be cured?

Updated: Apr 20, 2023

One of the questions which ophthalmologists are regularly asked is, can myopia be cured? We would love to be able to say "yes", but despite some people (we would say very dubiously) claiming that they have cured or reversed their myopia, current scientific understanding indicates the simple answer is "no". But that would make for a very short article, so let's look at why that's the simple answer and what options we have when managing myopia.

Myopia generally arises when the eye grows more than it should, leaving it too long front to back ( known as axial myopia) or resulting in the cornea being too steeply curved (known as refractive myopia). Axial myopia is by far the most common form of myopia. As a result, the light rays entering the eye focus in front of the retina, meaning that people cannot clearly see distant objects. Once an eye has grown out of shape, it is virtually impossible to reduce it back to a more optimum form which is why the consensus is that myopia can't be cured.

So whilst myopia can't be reversed, there are various treatments available which can help to manage or offset myopic vision. Wearing single-vision glasses or contact lenses can change how light enters the eye, bending it so that it focuses on the correct point on the retina, enabling people to see distant objects; this doesn't slow the rate of growth of the eyeball. For adults, surgery may also be an option. For example, refractive surgery reshapes the cornea to correct myopic vision. However, these options can all be seen as methods of myopia offsetting rather than cures.

This leads us to myopia management. Myopia isn't a condition which suddenly arises fully formed. It develops over time. As a result, any interventions that may slow down myopia's progression could help minimise the degree of myopia that an individual may have to live with in later life.

This is particularly important regarding myopia development in children and young people. Typically, myopia can develop in early childhood, perhaps as early as three years of age. Myopia development will then continue as an individual grows, being most rapid in earlier years and slowing in teenage years before plateauing in early adulthood.[1] That's why early sight tests are necessary, helping pick up myopia before it develops too far.

Research has shown that myopia in children is on the rise, with one study [1] commenting that the number of children with myopia has doubled in the last fifty years. Without intervention, those children could develop severe levels of myopia by the time they reach adulthood. This, in turn, could leave them open to many eye problems in later life. For example, even low levels of myopia can lead to a three-fold increase in the chance of developing retinal detachment, with that multiple increasing with the severity of myopia.[2]

That's why early detection and early intervention can make such a difference. Current myopia management options may not be able to cure myopia. Still, they may be able to slow down its development, thereby having a lasting effect on the degree of severity of myopia in later life and lessening the chances of going on to develop other eye conditions.

So what interventions are available? Let's start with dual-focus lenses. These can be deployed either in glasses or as contact lenses. The dual focus lens firstly acts the same way as a single vision lens, enabling the wearer to see objects at a distance. Secondly, the outer portion of the lens manages how peripheral light enters the eye, thereby slowing the eye's growth and reducing myopia's development.

This led one optometric professor to comment that:

“Compared with single vision contact lenses, multifocal lenses slow myopia progression by about 43% over three years.” [3] Another recent study [4] concluded that “Dual-focus soft contact lenses continue to slow the progression of myopia in children over a 6-year period revealing an accumulation of treatment effect.”

Alongside corrective lenses, parents may wish to consider lifestyle changes to reduce myopia's development. A 2021 study [5] concluded that increasing time spent outdoors by one to three hours each day could reduce the risk of myopia by 50%. Once myopia has begun developing, outdoor time doesn't seem to reduce its progression, but it is essential to remember outdoor time's physical and psychological benefits. Reducing time spent in close work, such as on computers or phones, can also help to reduce myopia development.

These are avenues that adults, too, may wish to consider. Although myopic development is primarily a condition that starts in childhood, myopia can develop or worsen in adulthood, perhaps due to diabetes or too much close work. Stepping back from the computer and into the open air or making lifestyle changes to manage diabetes risk could help to reduce the chances of adult-onset myopia developing.

Can myopia be cured? No. But by deploying a myopia management plan as soon as myopia is identified, it may be possible to slow its development down. And that can only be good news for eye health throughout our lives.

If you're a parent whose child has been diagnosed with myopia or if they are struggling with their distance vision, we hope you found MyopiaFocus helpful. Please join our community or sign our petition to get the government and NHS to recognise myopia as an ocular disease/severe ocular condition and fund myopia management for children.

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