Myopia or nearsightedness is an eye condition caused by a refractive error that makes faraway objects appear fuzzy or blurry. People who are nearsighted can see nearby objects clearly.
Nearsightedness is extremely common. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), almost 30 percent of Americans are nearsighted. This condition can be diagnosed with an eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Keep reading to learn about the symptoms and causes of myopia and your options for treatment.
The most common symptom of nearsightedness is having blurry vision when you look at faraway objects.
People with myopia may have trouble watching television from across the room or seeing street signs clearly while driving. Children and teens with myopia may have trouble seeing or reading the whiteboard at school.
Symptoms of nearsightedness can include:
- blurry vision when looking at faraway objects
- eye strain, which is when your eyes hurt or feel tired
- squinting in order to see far-off objects
If your myopia is mild, you may not notice any symptoms. You may mistake myopic vision with normal vision.
The symptoms of nearsightedness usually go away after treatment with eyeglasses or contact lenses. You may experience headaches and eye fatigue for a week or two as you adjust to your new eyeglasses or contact lens prescription.
Anyone can develop nearsightedness.
However, myopia tends to develop in children and adolescents and may get worse as they approach their early 20s. Adults usually remain nearsighted if they have the condition as a child.
Risk factors for nearsightedness can include:
- Age. According to the
National Eye Institute, myopia often begins between the ages of 6 and 14 and may continue to get worse until you reach your early 20s. Your eyes are growing at this age, so the shape of your eyes can change.
- Diabetes. Adults can become nearsighted due to certain health conditions, such as diabetes.
- Frequent visual stress. Doing close detailed work, such as on the computer or reading, may cause temporary nearsightedness. Over time, this can affect your distance vision permanently.
- Family history. Nearsightedness can be an inherited condition. If one or both of your parents are nearsighted, you’re more likely to be as well.
- Less time spent outdoors. Myopia
maybe less likely to develop in children who spend a lot of time outdoors.
- More time spent using screens. School-age children who spend 7 hours or more using screens in 1 week may triple their risk for developing myopia, according to a
2017 studyof children in Delhi.
Nearsightedness is caused by a refractive error. A refractive error occurs when your eye doesn’t focus light correctly.
If you’re nearsighted, it means that the eye focuses light in front of your retina instead of onto it. The retina is the surface at the back of your eye that collects light. It changes the light into electrical impulses that your brain reads as images. When the eye focuses light in front of the retina, it can result in blurred vision.
This happens because the shape of the eye is slightly abnormal. If you have myopia, it is likely that your eyeball is a little too long or your cornea is too rounded. The cornea is the clear covering on the front of your eye. These structural changes can cause your eye to focus incorrectly.
Myopia can be diagnosed as part of a standard eye exam. These exams monitor both vision and eye health.
If you have myopia or another eye condition, it’s important to have regular eye exams to monitor your prescription in case it changes and to test for serious eye conditions. Your age, medical history, and eye health all determine how often you should have your eyes examined.
A comprehensive eye exam can include tests on the following:
The eye doctor will ask about your medical history and any medications you take.
This involves reading the letters or symbols on an eye chart in different sizes.
The eye doctor will have you look through a machine with different lenses to see if you have a refraction error. This test may also be used to determine your prescription for lenses if needed.
To test whether your pupils respond appropriately, an eye doctor will shine a bright light into your eye. Bright light typically makes pupils shrink. If they react differently, there may be a problem.
Peripheral vision test
They will also test your peripheral, or side, vision by having you view images through a machine. Loss of side vision may be a sign of glaucoma, a serious eye condition that can lead to blindness if left untreated.
Eye movement test
This test examines the health of your eye muscles. These muscles control eye movement.
Eye pressure test
The eye doctor will release a puff of air into your eyes to test your eye pressure. High eye pressure may be a sign of glaucoma, which is often caused by high pressure in the eye.
Eye health and structure exam
The eye doctor will look for signs of cataracts or damage like scratches on your cornea. The cornea is the front part of your eye.
Retina and optic nerve exam
The doctor may use dilating eye drops to widen your pupil so they can check for damage to the retina and optic nerve. As your eyes may be sensitive to light for a few hours after this test, you may need help getting home from your appointment and may be unable to drive.
Correction for nearsightedness may include corrective lenses or surgery. Eyeglasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery can correct the refractive error or refocus the image onto the retina.
Eyeglasses and contact lenses are examples of corrective lenses. These devices make up for the curve of your cornea or the elongation of your eye by shifting the focus of light as it enters your eye. Eyeglasses can be used for all ages.
Your prescription strength will depend on how far you can see clearly. You may need to wear corrective lenses all the time or just for certain activities, such as driving.
Contact lenses generally give you a wider field of corrected vision than glasses. They’re applied directly to the corneas of your eyes. Some people may not be able to tolerate contact lenses because they can irritate the surface of their eyes.
According to a 2019 clinical trial of specific FDA-approved soft contact lenses in children, contact lenses for myopia control can be effective in slowing the progression of nearsightedness.
Refractive surgery is a permanent form of correction for nearsightedness. Also called laser eye surgery, the procedure reshapes your cornea to focus light onto your retina. This surgery is only available for adults.
During laser eye surgery, your eyes are typically numbed with eye drops. The surgery is usually painless. But you may experience some symptoms as your eyes recover. These symptoms may include:
- the feeling that something is in your eye
Many people who have refractive eye surgery no longer need to wear contact lenses or eyeglasses. Learn more about how long laser eye surgery lasts.
Corneal reshaping therapy
Corneal reshaping therapy, also known as orthokeratology, involves using specific lenses to temporarily change the shape of the cornea. This is an alternative therapy with the goal of flattening the cornea.
Eye doctors may use low-dose atropine to help slow down the progression of myopia in children. A 2020 3- year clinical study of low-dose atropine eyedrops has so far shown promising outcomes.
The long-term outlook for people with myopia is good. Myopia can worsen from childhood until your 20s. However, most people with nearsightedness see great improvement with treatment, including corrective lenses or surgery.
Having severe myopia can increase your risk for serious eye conditions such as glaucoma, myopic maculopathy, cataracts, and retinal detachment.
Treating myopia early in childhood can help prevent the progression of myopia as well as any social and academic impact of poor eyesight.
You can’t prevent nearsightedness from developing.
However, according to the AOA, there are therapies that may be able to reduce its progression or correct it. While these treatments may appear to be effective, according to
These therapies can include:
- bifocal or multifocal lenses
- contact lenses
- corneal reshaping therapy
- eye drops
Taking care of your eyes may also help you see better for longer.
To help protect your eyes:
- Limit screen time.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule by taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away.
- Spend more time outdoors.
- When doing close work, such as on a computer, try to hold the object 12 inches away.
- Get regular eye exams.
- Wear corrective lenses as prescribed by your eye doctor.
- Follow instructions for using contact lenses, including not wearing them longer than directed, while swimming, or to sleep.
- Wear sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) radiation protection.
- Use protective eyewear when doing certain activities, such as using toxic chemicals or playing certain sports.
- Take regular breaks from close detail, such as looking at your computer screen.
- Manage chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid smoking.
If you notice any changes in your vision, such as blurred vision or halos around lights, contact your eye doctor immediately.
How do you know if you’re nearsighted?
Nearsightedness is diagnosed by an eye doctor after a series of eye exams. You may be nearsighted if faraway objects appear blurry but nearby objects appear clear.
What’s the difference between nearsightedness and farsightedness?
Nearsightedness occurs when you can see nearby objects clearly but when faraway objects appear blurry.
Farsightedness occurs when you can see far-off objects clearly while nearby objects appear blurred.
Both nearsightedness and farsightedness are refractive errors caused by the shape of the eye.
Can myopia lead to blindness?
Having severe myopia, also known as high myopia, can increase your risk for certain eye conditions that may result in limited vision or blindness. These conditions can include cataracts, glaucoma, a detached retina, and degenerative myopia.
If you have myopia and wear contact lenses or have other vision issues, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends seeing an eye doctor once a year. This can help catch any changes in your vision or signs of more serious eye conditions. If the myopia is progressing quickly, an eye doctor may recommend more frequent visits.
Does myopia get worse with age?
Childhood myopia can often get worse until your 20s. This is because the body and the eyes are still growing. However, treatments such as bifocals, contact lenses, corneal reshaping therapy, and eye drops may help prevent vision from worsening.
Your risk for certain eye conditions, including those that may impact your vision, can increase as you age. The AAO recommends that adults over 40 have a comprehensive eye exam and adults 65 and older have their eyes checked every year or two. If you have any risk factors, such as a family history of an eye condition or a past eye condition, wear contact lenses, or have high blood pressure or diabetes, you should have your eyes checked more often.
How can you prevent myopia from getting worse?
Certain treatments, including bifocals, contact lenses, corneal reshaping therapy, and eye drops, may help prevent nearsightedness from progressing. However, more research is needed to further examine these therapies.
Taking care of your health may also benefit your eye health. You can do this by being active, eating healthy foods, avoiding smoking, and wearing protective eyewear when needed.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, occurs when you can clearly see objects that are close up but faraway objects may appear blurry. If your nearsightedness is untreated, you may experience eye strain, squinting, and headaches.
This eye condition is caused by a refractive error that occurs in people whose eyeballs are slightly longer.
Nearsightedness can be treated with corrective lenses in glasses or contacts or with surgery that reshapes the cornea.