What is Degenerative Myopia?

Degenerative myopia, also called malignant or pathological myopia, has become more prevalent in recent years. It is reported to be the seventh leading cause of legal blindness in the United States and the most common form of refractive error of the eye. Genetic factors influence the onset of degenerative myopia, though the disease is still largely misunderstood.

Let’s talk more about what degenerative myopia is, the signs and symptoms to watch for, and the treatments available.

Understanding Myopia

Myopia is nearsightedness, or the inability to focus on objects that are far in the distance. The visual problem occurs from an elongation in the eyeball that makes it difficult for the retina to focus on faraway objects. Parallel rays of light enter the eye from a distance and are brought into focus by the retina, creating a blurred image. Fortunately, eyeglasses and contact lenses can correct this abnormality.

The most common type of myopia is the mild form, affecting roughly 25% of the American population. Severe degrees of myopia are called degenerative myopia and occur in 2% of the population.

The most common signs of myopia include difficulty reading faraway objects like road signs, fatigue when driving or playing sports, headaches, and eye squinting or eye strain. Degenerative myopia has its own set of symptoms:

● Bending or distortion of straight lines
● Altered color perception
● Reduced contrast sensitivity
● Increasing loss of central vision
● Difficulty reading, watching TV, driving, or recognizing faces

Normal vs Severe Myopia

In most cases, myopia is a minor inconvenience that doesn’t pose any health risks to the eye. Degenerative myopia is a rare condition that is believed to be hereditary.

Pathological myopia starts in childhood and leads to a rapid elongation of the eyeball. This leads to progressive vision loss and an increased risk of retinal detachment and other degenerative conditions, including bleeding in the eye. Degenerative myopia may also increase the risk for cataracts.

Treatments for Pathological Myopia

At one time, there were very little options for people with degenerative myopia. However, eye specialists have seen success with photodynamic therapy that is used to treat macular degeneration. Photodynamic therapy, or PDT, is the first clinically proven therapy to treat severe myopia. It’s well-tolerated and has a well-established safety profile.

If you or someone you know has degenerative myopia, learn more about the options that are available to you by calling Empire Retina today.