Nearsightedness (Myopia)

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Nearsightedness (Myopia)

Topic Overview

What is nearsightedness?

Picture of the anatomy of the eyeNearsightedness (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.

What causes nearsightedness?

Most nearsightedness 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.

What are the symptoms?

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 vision.

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 settings.

When does nearsightedness start? How does it change over time?

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.

Nearsightedness 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 level.

How is nearsightedness diagnosed?

A routine eye examination can show whether you are nearsighted. The eye examination includes questions about your eyesight and a physical examination of your eyes. Ophthalmoscopy, tonometry, a slit lamp examination, and other vision tests are also part of a routine eye examination.

Eye examinations should be done for new babies and at all well-child visits.1 Nearsightedness is usually first discovered in children of grade-school age.

How is it treated?

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 corrective lenses.

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 after surgery.

If you are nearsighted, get regular eye examinations, and see your eye care specialist if you have changes in your vision.

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  Nearsightedness: Should I Have Laser Surgery?

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Canadian Association of Optometrists
234 Argyle Avenue
Ottawa, ON  K2P 1B9
Phone: 1-888-263-4676
Fax: (613) 235-2025
Email: info@opto.ca
Web Address: http://www.opto.ca
 

The Canadian Association of Optometrists represents the profession of optometry and works to enhance the quality, availability, and accessibility of eye, vision, and related health care. Its Web site provides information on optometry as well as eye health information.


Canadian National Institute for the Blind
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON  M4G 3E8
Phone: (800) 563-2642
Fax: (416) 480-7677
Email: info@cnib.ca
Web Address: http://www.cnib.ca
 

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind is a voluntary agency dedicated to helping improve the lives of the blind and visually impaired, preventing blindness, and promoting sight enhancement services. The organization offers a variety of publications and educational resources about vision loss and impairment, including pamphlets, newsletters, and a quarterly magazine.


Canadian Ophthalmological Society
610-1525 Carling Avenue
Ottawa, ON  K1Z 8R9
Email: cos@eyesite.ca
Web Address: www.eyesite.ca/english/index.htm
 

The Canadian Ophthalmological Society is an association of eye doctors dedicated to helping the public take good care of their eyes and vision. This group provides educational information on eye conditions and diseases and eye safety.


Health Canada Laser Eye Surgery for Vision Correction
Web Address: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/med/surgery-chirurgie-eng.php
 

Health Canada's Laser Eye Surgery webpage provides basic information about laser eye surgeries available in Canada.


References

Citations

  1. Community Paediatrics Committee, Canadian Paediatric Society (2009). Vision screening in infants, children and youth. Paediatrics and Child Health, 14(4): 246–248. Available online: http://www.cps.ca/english/statements/cp/cp09-02.htm

Other Works Consulted

  • American Academy of Ophthalmology (2010). Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma Suspect (Preferred Practice Pattern). San Francisco. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Also available online: http://aao.org/ppp.
  • Rajan 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.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Last Revised August 5, 2011

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