So you’re wondering what causes myopia.
First I’m going to go over several common claimed causes of myopia, and then I’ll explain what really causes it.
Table of Contents
Heredity does play a role in your personality, your predispositions to certain diseases and conditions.
But if you look at certain societies like the Eskimos that were isolate from Western society until recent decades, when the kids started going to our schools their incidence of myopia went way up. Their parents and grandparents were not myopic.
You’ll see that a lot everywhere. It’s on the rise, and you’ll see kids get myopic without any genetic history of it in their family.
2. Close Work
Using your computer, reading… This is a popular theory.
University students do have a higher incidence of myopia than the general population of people their age.
One interesting thing is myopia correlates to very close up reading and continuous reading without breaks, or in other words the intensity of the reading, but not the overall time spent doing it.
People with myopia get more transient myopia after near work. In other words, people with myopia do close up work and then look up and the distance is more blurry than before. People with normal vision don’t get this effect of transient myopia.
This points to the cause being more about the way they do things rather than something as simple as the distance of an object.
Sometimes people will combine these two theories, saying it’s mostly near work and partly genetics, or the other way around, but even doing that it doesn’t cover the data well enough.
The elevated blood sugar in diabetes makes the lens swell and causes myopia. That happens, evidently. But obviously not everyone with myopia is diabetic, or even a majority of them.
4. Physiological Conditions
Asthma and other allergies are higher with people with myopia.
There was a recent study of how kids who got more sunlight had a lower incidence of myopia. However, it’s hard to control all the factors in something like this. The kids who played outdoors more got more exercise, fresh air, arguably had more fun, looked at more interesting things, etc. Sunlight certainly is important, but there are too many factors here.
6. Lack of Physical Activity
There is a study where the oxygen supply in the blood is lower in people with myopia than without. So that’s interesting.
What Does This Mean?
Some of these things kind of go together. The same kids who are physically active are outside more and studying boring books less.
The clue here is how it’s in developed countries, particularly urban areas, where myopia is increasing. In urban areas the schooling tends to be more intense, or kids are more confined.
Still, some kids manage to avoid it. Some start to develop myopia and get better.
Usually when it starts is in grade school, high school or university. Other people are born with it or develop it as toddlers. I was one of those. But everything points to school being a huge factor.
What Really Causes Myopia
It’s not so much the reading and other school work. It’s the psychological factor of the stress and the response to the stress. This isn’t totally predictable. People respond in different ways. Some people have more of a tendency towards myopia when they’re stressed. They also have to deal with boring stuff when the lesson plans are going too slowly for them.
Having to sit in a desk, despite breaks, for hours every day, is not a good thing for them. It’s not comfortable.
It’s important to note that developing myopia isn’t necessarily associated with close work only. Kids might have trouble seeing the whiteboard or projector screen, or there might be other psychological factors that make them feel stressed when looking at more distant objects.
The same kind of thing happens with adults. When they get in a bad situation and don’t handle the stress in the right way by staying relaxed, and they develop a lot of chronic tension that goes to their eyes.
They use their eyes in ways that cause more tension.
Their eyes become uncomfortable.
Seeing becomes more of an ardous task.
Their eyes don’t focus as well. They have to force their eyes to focus even more by putting more tension them.
Remember, vision really happens in the mind, not the eyes. It uses a combination of data from the eyes along with memory and some good guesswork or imagination to construct the images. When people get stressed out and react in this way, it hinders the mind’s ability to work as efficiently as it can. And we know this; we know that when you’re relaxed you can think better, and when you’re stressed out you can get to a point where you can hardly think at all. So your mind isn’t able to do the powerful and intricate job of visual processing as well, and it doesn’t focus your eyes as well.
When this continues for too long or too often, your visual mind gets into a perpetual state of reduced functioning. You can’t visualize as well. And vision is visualization. You might think of visualization as something you do with your eyes closed, but it’s the same thing.
There are other aspects of this too, but anyway they get hardened into the personality, and the personality in turn reinforces these bad habits.
It’s hard to say in what order these things happen in, but the point is they happen. They all go together.
And all those theories of the cause of myopia I mentioned, physiological factors, sunlight and everything, can have some effect, but they’re missing the point. Those researchers are barking up the wrong tree. They have a mechanical worldview where x causes y, or x and y cause z. They don’t take into account free will and the power of the human mind to make different choices that cause different physiological outcomes.
The cool thing about this situation is you can reverse these types of bad habits I mentioned. The right way to break bad habits is to concentrate on the good habits. We have learned enough about the right way to use the eyes that all this can be reversed with the methods I promote.
I founded iblindness.org in 2002 as I began reading books on the Bates Method and became interested in vision improvement. I believe that everyone who is motivated can identify the roots of their vision problems and apply behavioral changes to solve them.