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Nearsightedness (myopia) is a
common cause of blurred vision. It can be mild, moderate, or severe. If you are nearsighted, objects in the distance
appear blurry and out of focus. You might squint or frown when trying to see
distant objects clearly. View a
photo as seen through a normal and a nearsighted eye.
Nearsightedness is usually a variation from normal, not a disease. Less often,
nearsightedness happens because of another disease or condition.
is caused by a natural change in the shape of the eyeball.
Less often, nearsightedness may be caused by a change in the
cornea or the lens.
These problems cause light rays entering the eye to focus
in front of the retina. Normally, light focuses directly on the
retina. See a picture of the
parts of the eye.
There is nothing you can do to prevent nearsightedness.
The main symptom is blurred vision when looking at distant objects. You may have
trouble clearly seeing images or words on a blackboard, movie screen, or
television. This can lead to poor school, athletic, or work performance.
Your child may be nearsighted if he or she squints or
frowns, gets headaches often, or holds books or other
objects very close to his or her face. Children who are nearsighted may sit at
the front of the classroom or very close to the TV or movie screen. They may
not be interested in sports or other activities that require good distance
If you think that your child may be nearsighted, see an eye care
specialist. Treating nearsightedness
early may prevent children from having trouble in school and in social
Nearsightedness usually begins in childhood between ages 6 and 12. During the teen years, as the eyeballs continue
to grow, it may develop or get worse quickly. Teenagers may need
new glasses every 12 months or even more often.
usually stops getting worse by age 14 to 16 in women and by the mid-20s in
men. Most nearsightedness stabilizes at a mild to moderate
A routine eye
exam can show whether you are nearsighted. The eye exam includes questions
about your eyesight and a physical exam of your eyes. Ophthalmoscopy,
tonometry, a slit lamp exam, and other vision tests are also part of a routine
Eye exams should be done for new babies and at all
well-child visits.1 Nearsightedness is usually first discovered in children of grade-school
Most people who are nearsighted use eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct their vision.
Surgery can also reduce or fix nearsightedness. There are several surgery options, such as
LASIK, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), and artificial lens implants. The goal of surgery
is to help you see more clearly without glasses or contacts. Most doctors consider
20/40 vision or better after surgery a satisfactory
result. People with 20/40 vision or better are allowed to drive a car without
If glasses or contact lenses are inconvenient for your work or lifestyle, surgery may be a good choice. But nearsightedness is not a disease, and a nearsighted eye
is otherwise normal and healthy. Weigh your desire to have clear
vision without glasses or contacts against the risks and cost of surgery. And be aware that you may still need to wear glasses or contact lenses
If you are nearsighted, get regular eye exams, and see your eye care specialist if you have changes in your vision.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about nearsightedness:
Living with nearsightedness:
The American Optometric Association (AOA), which is a
national organization of optometrists, can provide information on eye health
and eye problems.
EyeCare America is a public service program of the
Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This site aims to raise awareness about
eye diseases and eye care. It has information about eye conditions, treatments, and general eye health. You can check to see if you qualify for a free eye exam.
This website has information for the public about
laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery. LASIK surgery is meant
to reduce a person's dependency on glasses or contact lenses. It permanently
changes the shape of the cornea, which is the clear covering of the front of
As part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the National Eye
Institute provides information on eye diseases and vision research.
Publications are available to the public at no charge. The Web site includes
links to various information resources.
Prevent Blindness America assists the visually impaired
and provides consumer information on vision problems and vision aids.
Its website has information about eye health and safety for children
and adults. Many states have local affiliates.
CitationsAmerican Academy of Pediatrics, et al. (2003, reaffirmed 2007). Policy statement: Eye examination in infants, children, and young adults by pediatricians. Pediatrics, 111(4): 902–907.Other Works ConsultedRajan MS, et al. (2006). Effects of ablation diameter on long-term refractive stability and corneal transparency after photorefractive keratectomy. Ophthalmology, 113(10): 1798–1806.Trobe JD (2006). Refractive disorders section of Principal ophthalmic conditions. In Physician's Guide to Eye Care, 3rd ed, pp. 121–124. San Francisco: American Academy of Ophthalmology.
June 24, 2011
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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