New research findings may help doctors create better screenings for certain vision disorders so people can address the problems before they become serious, according to a news release from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

For the study, researchers monitored 429 nearsighted patients for an average of 12 years. Scientists found that 40 percent of these patients had a worsening condition called myopic maculopathy (a disorder that affects the macula, a part of the eye that provides clear detailed vision).

What researchers found is that a patient’s age, degree of nearsightedness, eye (axial) length and a specific abnormal bulging of the back surface of the eye (called a posterior staphyloma) may be key factors affecting the severity of myopic maculopathy, said Kyoko Ohno-Matsui, MD, of the Tokyo Medical and Dental University.

The types and patterns of these abnormalities in the macula influenced how vision was affected, researchers noted.

The importance of these findings, scientists said, is that knowing the connection between disease patterns and vision loss helps doctors target what patients need watching most. Plus, the associations doctors find can help them provide patients with the most effective treatments.

Learn how regular eye exams can protect your vision here.