Previous theories of myopia development involved subtle and complex processes such as the sensing and analyzing of chromatic aberration, spherical aberration, spatial gradient of blur, or spatial frequency content of the retinal image, but they have not been able to explain satisfactorily the diverse experimental results reported in the literature. On the other hand, our newly proposed incremental retinal-defocus theory (IRDT) has been able to explain all of these results. This theory is based on a relatively simple and direct mechanism for the regulation of ocular growth. It states that a time-averaged decrease in retinal-image defocus area decreases the rate of release of retinal neuromodulators, which decreases the rate of retinal proteoglycan synthesis with an associated decrease in scleral structural integrity. This increases the rate of scleral growth, and in turn the eye's axial length, which leads to myopia. Our schematic analysis has provided a clear explanation for the eye's ability to grow in the appropriate direction under a wide range of experimental conditions. In addition, the theory has been able to explain how repeated cycles of nearwork-induced transient myopia leads to repeated periods of decreased retinal-image defocus, whose cumulative effect over an extended period of time results in an increase in axial growth that leads to permanent myopia. Thus, this unifying theory forms the basis for understanding the underlying retinal and scleral mechanisms of myopia development.