Also known as nearsightedness, it is a condition in which near objects are seen clearly, but far away objects are blurry. It can happen at any age.

Causes

People are able to see because the front part of the eye bends (refracts) light and points it to the back surface of the eye, called the retina.

Nearsightedness occurs when the physical length of the eye is greater than the optical length, and affects males and females equally. People who have a family history of nearsightedness are more likely to develop it. Most eyes with nearsightedness are healthy, but a small number of people with severe myopia develop a form of retinal degeneration.

Symptoms

A nearsighted person sees close up objects clearly, but objects in the distance are blurred. Squinting will tend to make far away objects seem clearer.

Nearsightedness is often first noticed in school-aged children or teenagers. Children often cannot read the blackboard, but they can easily read a book.

Nearsightedness gets worse during the growth years. People who are nearsighted need to change glasses or contact lenses often. It usually stops progressing as a person stops growing in his or her early twenties.

Treatment

Wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses can help shift the focus of the light image directly onto the retina, producing a clearer image.

The most common surgery to correct myopia is LASIK. An excimer laser is used to reshape (flatten) the cornea, shifting the focus.

Possible Complications

  • Complications can occur in people who use contact lenses (corneal ulcers and infections)
  • Complications of laser vision correction are uncommon, but can be serious
  • People with myopia can, in rare cases, develop retinal detachments or retinal degeneration

Prevention

There is no way to prevent nearsightedness. Reading and watching television do not cause nearsightedness. In the past, dilating eye drops were proposed as a treatment to slow the development of nearsightedness in children, but they have never been proven effective.

The use of glasses or contact lenses does not affect the normal progression of myopia — they simply focus the light so the nearsighted person can see distant objects clearly. Hard contact lenses will sometimes hide the progression of nearsightedness, but vision will still get worse “under” the contact lens.