Is stress causing you to lose sight?

Is there a link between stress and being short-sighted?
Is there a link between stress and being short-sighted?

Myopia is currently the most common human vision refractive disorder. Being near-sighted has become the norm in the United States and many other countries, with rates in young adults in the United States estimated as high as 60% and rates in East Asia estimated at 80-90% of school-leavers.

Unfortunately, the reason behind myopia are still poorly understood. This study is a preliminary investigation of a possible missing piece, namely psychological stress. Myopia has frequently been considered unalterable and resulting from inherent fault in the structure or functioning of the eye.

However, as the ancient Greek physicians taught, the eyes, as other parts of the body, are affected by the mind, the emotions, and other aspects of mental and physical health and functioning. The eye is not an inanimate object situated in the head, but a part of the body.

It is well established in psychiatry that emotions may affect vision to the extent of creating blindness, as seen in conversion disorder. A previous study (Yoo & al) report results of vision screenings by the UCLA Mobile Eye Clinic. They found that, compared with a group of boys of the same age range who were screened at the local Boys and Girls Clubs, the abused and neglected boys at a residential facility had a significantly higher prevalence of ophthalmologic abnormalities, including myopia (20.6% vs. 5.8%) and astigmatism (16.8% vs. 6.6%).

In this extension of a recent study, 457 participants who were predominantly undergraduate students completed an anonymous survey assessing both their adult evaluation and retrospective childhood evaluation of their childhood stress.

Myopic participants had a significantly higher score on the Stress-Fear-Abuse scale in a factor analysis than did participants with normal vision. Exploratory analyses suggested that myopes in their childhood had lower self-esteem, were more lonely, experienced more criticism about physical aspects of themselves, had higher weight, sat closer to the television, and may have experienced more fear and more very stressful events or situations. This study point to possible unexplored risk factors for myopia and suggest complex interrelationships between psychological stress, childhood emotions, and myopia development.

Psychological Stress in Childhood and Myopia Development
Optometry & Visual Performance, 2014;2(6):289-96.
Louise Katz & Kristoffer S. Berlin

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