Short-sighted eyes are also at 4 times the normal risk for glaucoma – a progressive disease of the optic nerve head. This disease occurs in about 2% of the population – unless you are myopic, when your risk of developing this disease is about 8%. It is thought that the retinal nerve fibres are damaged by the stretching that occurs in myopia.
Regular eye examinations with your family optometrist are your best protection against vision loss. Glaucoma can be well-managed but the problem is that there are no early symptoms and the disease can be missed until permanent damage has occurred.
Cataracts are a worry for short-sighted people. Not only do they have a higher risk of developing cataract, they also have more complications associated with cataract surgery, where the risk of retinal detachment is 5 to 10 times higher than the normal 0.5% risk. This means up 5% of short-sighted patients having cataract surgery could develop an associated retinal detachment.
Your surgeon will carefully examine your eye prior to surgery to assess your individual risk. (It is also harder to calculate the power of the intraocular lens, leading to less accurate results in terms of spectacle independence). It is not understood exactly why cataract occurs more frequently in short-sightedness, but it is thought that the increased length of the eye deprives the crystalline lens of nutrients, or possibly that it results as a by-product of retinal damage.
Cataracts are easily picked up in routine eye examination. Symptoms include blurred vision, glare, and changes in spectacle prescription. If you are short-sighted, be sure to choose an experienced surgeon for your procedure. There is also clinical evidence that femto-cataract surgery (using a laser to replace some of the manual steps of the procedure) can reduce the risk of retinal detachment by reducing surgery time and using less energy in the eye.
The macula is the most sensitive part of the central retina inside your eye. It is responsible for all our central vision, including the details of reading print, facial recognition etc. Damage to the macula is devastating for your eye sights as well as your quality of life.
Even moderate myopia increases the risk of macula disease 10 to 40 times. High errors of short-sightedness are associated with risks hundreds of times higher than normal. As with the other eye disease associated with myopia, regular eye tests with your optometrist are the best defence against vision loss. Anyone developing myopia should discuss myopia control with their optometrist. Strategies such as Atropine eye drops, ortho-k and multifocal contact lenses are all effective in slowing or even halting the progression in your myopia. Remember, there is a world of difference in terms of risk of retinal or macular damage between -3 and -9 dioptres.