In a blog post by Cleveland Clinic, high myopia is defined as a rare inherited type of high-degree nearsightedness that occurs when a person’s eyeballs grow longer than they should or when the cornea is too steep. It is usually defined as myopia with a refractive error greater than -5.00 dioptres (D). In my own words, high myopia is an advanced form of myopia or nearsightedness which simply means when a person has severe trouble viewing people or objects that are at a farther distance due to blurriness in their vision but have little to no problem viewing them up-close.
Eye care professionals seem to be unsure of the exact cause of myopia but believe it to be an equal mix of hereditary and environmental factors. Myopia can first be diagnosed in children in their early years and can progressively worsen as they get older. Genes for myopia and high myopia development have been identified in both familial and twin studies and by linkage analysis.
Even when appropriate refractive correction is provided, myopia continues to place an individual at an increased risk of sight-threatening diseases such as;
- Retinal tears – which may subsequently lead to retinal detachment.
- Myopic maculopathy or myopic macular degeneration.
While there is no proven long-term solution yet for curing high myopia, low myopia, on the other hand, can be managed or corrected with the following remedies;
- Contact lenses
- Ortho-K or Corneal Refractive Therapy
- Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)
- Vision Therapy
- Phakic Intraocular Lenses
- Intraocular Lens Implant
My journey with myopia began at the tender age of 2 but I did not get glasses until I was about 4 or 5 years old. Growing up as the first-born child in a typical Nigerian home came with some responsibilities, I was expected to run little errands here and there for both my parents and older cousins I grew up with at the time which is quite normal as it is a part of the home training you receive as an African child.
I vividly remember this one time, my cousin had asked me to get a hair comb from her room (bear in mind she had told me where exactly to find it), I went in there, searched and searched for this hair comb for probably about 10 minutes but couldn’t find it. A little while later, she walked in and asked why I was taking so long and so I told her how I have searched but was unable to find the hair comb and guess what, she walked towards, picked up the hair comb and jokingly said to me “So what is this then?.. Are you sure you searched for it or you came in here to play?”, the comb was just right in front of me but I couldn’t see it.
When it came to watching television as a child, I would always drag my tiny chair and position it in front of the screen because that was the only way I could get the best view. I recall my dad always trying to dissuade me from getting too close to the television, “It’s not good for your eyes, it’ll damage your sight” he would say while dragging my chair backwards and I would get so upset.
I would say studying was the greatest challenge I faced in my early years because I always struggled with seeing the writings on the blackboard, as a result of this, I quickly developed a short attention span, I found it hard to focus on schoolwork because – hey if I can’t see, what’s the point of paying attention, right? This often led to me having bad grades at school despite several efforts by my very loving parents, to get me homeschooled.
Around age 4 or 5 when I eventually went in for an eye test, got diagnosed with myopia and was prescribed my first pair of glasses, I immediately disliked wearing them. Kids at school were mean and would always make fun of me. This lasted even up until high school because as I got older, it gradually advanced into high myopia and a factor of astigmatism, for me this meant thicker lenses. “Always put on your glasses,” they said, “It’ll correct your sight in no time,” they said, it’s been over 22 years now and it isn’t getting any better. Of course, I had a few classmates back then who also used glasses and it just had a way of bringing us together seeing as we were on the same boat.
Sometime in August 2021, I noticed a drastic change in my vision so I decided to go in for a quick eye test and on the 30th of August, I was diagnosed with Retinal Detachment on both eyes.
My first thought after hearing that was “Oh My God, what new problem is this now? Can I ever catch a break?”
To be honest, before that day I had no clue what a retinal detachment was or even how severe it could get if left untreated.
My optometrist then began to talk me through it but the only thing that stuck was hearing her say that retinal detachment could potentially lead to vision loss and the only solution was a Scleral Buckle surgery.
I immediately lost my composure and bawled my eyes out. I know I have a 0% chance of permanently dropping my glasses as I have been deemed ineligible for a LASIK procedure due to the constant increase in my prescription and I accepted my fate a long time ago but hearing that I could most likely lose my sight at 25, in a foreign country, with no family relatives present to render their moral support, was something no one prepared me for.
I had to put school and work on hold as I was unfit to attend either. On September 3rd, 2021, I underwent my first scleral buckle surgery on my left eye and was in the hospital ward for a few days. The closest thing I have to family here, are my amazing friends who were unfortunately not allowed to visit me as a result of the set COVID19 restrictions at the hospital but that did not hinder them from strongly supporting me. In fact, from my family and friends back home to my school and my job to my GP and my medical insurance company, all were super supportive during this time.
I had the second procedure done on my right eye on September 20th, 2021. My recovery journey hasn’t exactly been the smoothest so far as my nearsightedness seems to have worsened which is one of the risks of scleral buckling. I remember being in so much pain at the very beginning, I still get terrible aches and burns in my eyes sometimes and I ensure to attend my post-op check-up appointments when due. As a matter of fact, in my last check-up appointment with my doctor, he said;
Those words weren’t the easiest to take in, I guess I’m just expected to accept and begin to see this as my new normal. Living with high myopia can be difficult but having a strong support system makes the journey a bit more bearable.
Spread kindness like confetti, you may never understand what people deal with.
Kevin Ching, a YouTube vlogger shares his experience with high myopia and astigmatism. Watch him demonstrate how people with nearsightedness see things around them.
Please feel free to share with me your experiences with either myopia, astigmatism, hypermetropia or any other sight challenges you are currently faced with or have faced in the past. I promise it is a safe space.