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Dealing With Degenerative Myopia

Most people do not take Myopia seriously. After all, it is a common vision problem. This condition, (also called nearsightedness or short-sightedness), involves having blurred vision when looking at things far from you while objects near you appear clear. This is assuming you are not wearing glasses or contact lenses.

Perhaps, the notion of myopia as a relatively safe eye condition comes from the fact that most cases improve as one ages, especially with the help of eye glasses or contact lenses. However, very few people know that myopia can actually be a serious problem that can cause vision loss. Read on to learn more about this condition.

Degenerative Myopia

This condition is more severe than other types of nearsightedness. It is associated with changes in the retina and the macula. It progresses rapidly and it can cause severe vision loss and retinal detachment.

Degenerative myopia is believed to be hereditary and is present from the time of birth. Most of the time, however, its symptoms begin to manifest during the pre-teen years. It is the seventh leading cause of legal blindness in the United States, affecting around 2% of its population. It commonly affects Japanese, Jewish, Middle Easterners and Chinese.

Symptoms

•    Headaches – this occurs because the corrective glasses are usually out of date. To try and see better in the distance one will squint, which in turn causes eye strain and then can manifest as a headache.

•    Light flashes

•    Cataract formation

•    Decreased vision

•    Increased sensitivity to light

•    Seeing floaters

•    Its symptoms may resemble those of age-related macular degeneration. Both conditions result in loss of central vision due to the detachment of the retina caused by the abnormal elongation of the eyeball. This usually takes place when the back part of the eye is larger than normal due to severe myopia. The marked stretching and thinning can damage the macula, the surrounding retina and the underlying tissue which will then result in having blurred vision.

•    Atrophy of the layer of the retina where blood vessels are located and break in Bruch’s membrane can create lacquer cracks. The blood vessels have the tendency to protrude through the cracks and then leak into the sub-retinal space under the photoreceptor cells. The hemorrhaging can result into retinal detachment, profound loss of central field vision and scarring.

Treatments

Here are some possible means of treating degenerative myopia:

•    If you experience hemorrhaging of blood vessels through the lacquer cracks, you should get immediate medical attention. Your doctor may prescribe an anti-angiogenic drug treatment such as Lucentis or Avastin or photodynamic therapy. Both remedies may be used simultaneously to address the problem.

•    Scleral buckling is a surgical procedure used to treat retinal detachment. It flattens and closes the breaks in the retina. A scleral buckle is a silicone sponge, rubber or semi-hard plastic material that your retinal specialist places on your sclera or the white part of your outer eye. It is sewn to the eye to keep it in place permanently.

•    Your ophthalmologist might also discuss early systemic treatment with 7-methylxanthine. This is used to normalize the abnormal growth pattern of the eyes of myopic children who are aged 8 to 13 years old. A Danish pilot study showed that this medication does not seem to have any obvious side effects over the course of 3 years.

•   Recently a study in Singapore discovered that using an eye drop called Atropine in a very low concentration 0.01% can slow down the progression of myopia dramatically.  This is now our preferred method for controlling myopia combined with a procedure called orthokeratology.  More on orthokeratology and atropine can be found by clicking here. (http://www NULL.theeyepractice NULL.com NULL.au/eye-care/orthokeratology)

As with any eye condition, early detection and treatment are essential in preventing this type of nearsightedness from worsening. The moment you begin to exhibit its symptoms, don’t shrug them off as they may be indicative of a more serious condition.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

Comments (31)

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  1. Eileen Bryant says:

    I was recently diagnosed with myopic degeneration at age 62. My symptoms are not loss of central vision but cloudiness, especially around sources of light. I struggle to read at work as I feel like I am in a steam room. I do not have cataracts and my eyes are only mildly dry (although I recently started using Restasis). I am beginning to wonder if my symptoms are even due to the myopic, or retinal degeneration. I have found little to help in my research efforts. Can you help? Thank you.

    • admin says:

      Eileen i am sorry for the late reply.Depending on how much myopia you have, I would be surprised if you do not have at least some cataract. Where are you located I would suggest a second opinion.

    • Amy Barnard says:

      Hi – I am 37 and have been diagnosed with myopic degeneration for over 5 years. Although I have not been suscessful at finding a source that lists all of your experiences that you have and will have in one place. I can say that the cloudiness and light issues with no cataracts are something I have. In addition I have time when I see black dots that glitter and fade away that are not related to the many floaters more linked to the cell “gaps” as they are failing. I am under the care of some great docs monitoring for detachments and things, but thought you might feel better hearing about someone else “seeing” the same types of things. Best of luck to you!

      • admin says:

        Hi Amy, it is really important to try and stick to the things that you can control, when it come to any eye condition. In the context of myopic degeneration all you can do is avoid sudden shakes to the head like whiplash, getting hit in the head or around the eyes. If you are seeing great docs, they will have advised you that if you notice and distortion or significant change to vision to seek a consultation within a few days. You also need to remember that the docs nor myself can actually see what you are seeing. Every single person will see something different, so it is only after hearing different symptoms over many years that we accumulate a group of them that seem to relate to any particular condition. If possible you need to focus on your every day activities instead of your eyes. I know its hard but you need to for your own good. If something significant happens immediately seek a consultation and if any treatment can be offered it will. I hope this makes sense.

  2. Lisa says:

    My 7-years-old child was diagnosed with Pathological myopia and I was shocked to hear that, at present, there is no cure available for it. I switched over to homeopathy and was amused to find that his myopic progression was checked. It is a long term course but effective. I am sharing the prescription and advice all parents to consult homeopathy physician before initiating it. Gelesmium 200- 1 drop daily, Physostigma Venenosum 200- 1 drop daily, Kalium phosphoricum 6x- 3 tablets 3 times a day.

    • admin says:

      Dear Lisa this diagnosis is indeed very confronting. Another thing you could consider is atropine 0.01% eye drops. One drop each eye before going to bed. This is now medically proven. Even though homeopathy is used by many people it has been shown to not work in many cases. I guess there is probably little harm. How long has your child been stable using this treatment?

  3. Amy Connelly says:

    My 4 year old was diagnosed with progressive myopia. She is currently -10.25 in both eyes and increasing around .75 every 6 months. I need to get her to a specialist ASAP! Can you please recommend someone in the eastern US?

    • Jim (http://www NULL.optometrist NULL.com NULL.au) says:

      Gee Amy I understand your fear. At her age the only procedure that has some hope of helping is low dose atropine eye drops 0.01%. I’m afraid I do not know anyone there. What city are you from? I take a while to reply to these blog comments. Email an enquiry from the inquiry form on this website.

  4. sam says:

    hi I am also suffering from deg.myopia. and level is also too high I am currently using glasses -9.00 on right and -12.00 on left eye the level hasn’t been increasing since 5 years . what can be the right way to improve eye power or visioning . any therapy or exercises what can I do currently doing bachelor in finance

    • admin says:

      The fact you have stabilised for the last 5 years is great. You cannot improve your vision but you can eat healthy (green leafed vegetables), you need more outdoor activity, do NOT smoke. These are all common sense things.

  5. Khin says:

    Hi, I am not sure if i am suffering from degenerative myopia. but my symptoms are similar. I have vision loss from time to time. My right eye will lost half of the vision like something is stuck there and it will return to normal in 5 to 10 min time. My eyes are also sensitive to light.

    What are they measures that i can take to prevent it? or at least things i should do and i shouldnt?

    I dont want my retina to detach…

    • admin says:

      Khin
      This possibly sounds like an ocular migraine, which is nothing to worry about. I would seek a comprehensive eye test though to confirm this.
      It does not sound like degenerative myopia.

  6. Wendy says:

    Good evening, please do forgive my detail but I am so in hopes of a solution for my daughter. She has been followed from birth for strabismis. Having BEMS(bi-lateral eye-muscle surg.) three times, from her first year and lastly in JrHS. As well she has worn glasses since her third month with patching into middle school, wearing contacts since HS. During JrHS she lost vision in one eye for about 3-1/2 wks after taking a basketball to the face resulting in a retinal contusion. In HS we learned she had “Pathological Myopia” when reading it on a form from doc to the DMV for a DRVs Lic., but even with contacts she was unable to get a lic. She has been ridiculed by an employer for the visible outline of her contacts, even being vision tested on the signage in front of customers and worse…
    We are prayerfully seeking ANY correction such as would allow her to drive and navigate from bath to bed w/o contacts at night. Being told lenses for glasses, now prescribed at -22.50 and -22.00, would likely virtually touch her eyeball itself. I have great reservations about that being without its own significant RISK to her eye health and safety!
    Any ideas, referrals, suggestions or leads would be so very gratefully appreciated! We are in the San Diego CA area.
    Blessings,
    Wendy

    • admin says:

      Wendy I am sorry for the very late reply. This very high prescription is sometimes best corrected with scleral contact lenses. These must be supplied by a contact lens specialist. More on scleral contact lenses can be found here. (http://www NULL.theeyepractice NULL.com NULL.au/contact-lenses/scleral)

      Sometimes other contact lenses can do the trick very well. Look at our link called contact lenses. (http://www NULL.theeyepractice NULL.com NULL.au/contact-lenses)

      Once you have done this, if you are interested in seeing someone who specialises in America, near San Diego, email me direct.

  7. ROSEMARY says:

    I am strongly myopic with -8 to 9 in each eye. I had cataract surgery in my late forties and went on to have a detached retina requiring laser and Cryo and a buckle in my right eye 2 years later. I’d had lattice degeneration for many years. Yesterday my ophthalmologist was pleased with my level of vision although I’ve lost some peripheral vision due to all the surgery. ( I had preventative treatment to my left eye in 2013). I was shocked to learn that my myopic eyes are also at increased risk of macular degeneration, although there’s no sign of this yet. My ophthalmologist seemed to think that I’ll keep my eyesight but he will be looking out for further deterioration. It feels like it never ends. I’d felt I was out of the woods when my retinal detachment was treated successfully but now I feel much more worried again.

    • admin says:

      Rosemary eyesight is precious. I understand that. From your perspective you just need to avoid trauma to the head. You are very unlikely to develop macular degeneration from myopia, even though you have had retinal detachments.

  8. Harsh agarwall says:

    Hi !! Plz tell me if i hve a serious problem
    I m 17 years old
    I m using -3 and -5.5 lens in my eyes …??
    Is this a symptom of blindness
    I hve visited my doctor but he has only said me to chnge my lens and has givn an eye drop ” visilube” to use …
    Is immediate treatement needed for this ..
    Plz plz reply and suggest me what should i do !!
    I m from a small city

    • admin says:

      harsh this is a small prescription. Ideally you should do some myopia control but this is only available from contact lens specialists. The procedure is called orthokeratology. More on orthokeratology can be found here. (http://www NULL.theeyepractice NULL.com NULL.au/orthokeratology/)

  9. Jeannie says:

    Have had cataracts removed 3 years ago and was told I have mi optic degeneration last years I have these terrible migane heads ache lasting for three mths .in pain all the time . My eye surgeon scheduled me for a MRI next week . My vision has declined I am seeing big back spots zig zgs and sometime white .Do you think headache are related to my myopic degeneration? if so what should I do ?

    • admin says:

      Jeannine I do not think your headaches are related to you myopic degeneration. There is no pain to myopic degeneration. The black spots could be related to the myopic degeneration but if they are zig zag in shape I would be inclined to think they are related to migraine, especially the white ones.

  10. Hari says:

    I’ve had this query for a very long time, and i was wondering if you could help out. I am a 23 year old female with a very high negative prescription (-10 D). I do go for biannual retina check ups and while my eyes are currently fine, I do tend to worry a lot about the future of my eyes especially during the later decades of my life. My doctor doesn’t seem to be too worried though, and he says I don’t have pathological myopia. This was puzzling to me, since I felt that given my prescription, it is inevitable that I have PM. I’ve been getting retina check ups for the past 12 years by different doctors and none of them mentioned about PM to me. Is it true that having a high number doesn’t mean it is necessarily PM? Does it put me at a better chance of having good vision for the rest of my life? I’d really appreciate if you could clarify this to me. Thank you.

    • Hari says:

      A related question: Even if I don’t have pathological myopia now, can I develop it later on in life?

    • admin says:

      I have many patients that are around -10 and have retinas that look like they have no myopia. On the other hand I have a very small number of patients that are around -5 and have signs of pathological myopia. I do not think you should worry about your myopia. Try to avoid head trauma as this could set off a retinal detachment and have regular assessments for glaucoma as well, but overall the chance that you will have any serious trouble with your eyes is not high at all.

  11. Jayme says:

    i was diagnosed with Degenerative Myopia with nystagmus when i was 6 months old and have been struggling with task ever since the page helped me learn more about my disability.

  12. Janelle says:

    I am in my mid 20s and I have high myopia. Over the past year and a half, I’ve been suffering from what my RS says is ‘vitreous syneresis’. I experience occasional flashes in both eyes, though they are fainter and less frequent now. I’ve not had any retinal tears. My doctor says my retinas are ‘fine’ but he wrote that I have RPE changes in my report. Isn’t it the same as myopic macular degeneration? I am very scared. Please help!

    • admin says:

      RPE changes are quite normal in high myopia. There are some studies that show low concentration atropine drops can help slow down any further progression. I would also consider taking a vitamin supplement called Macutec which supports the health of the macula.

      • Janelle says:

        Thank you for your reply. Would these RPE changes create problems later on?

        • admin says:

          Even though it is possible it would be unlikely. There is no value in dwelling on the unlikely. Take your macula support vitamins, which is being proactive.

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