What is nearsightedness?
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.
Nearsightedness is usually a variation from normal, not a disease. Less often, nearsightedness happens because of another disease or condition.
What causes it?
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.
What happens when you are nearsighted?
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 20. Most nearsightedness stabilizes at a mild to moderate level.
How is it diagnosed?
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, slit lamp exams, and other tests that check vision and eye health are also part of a routine eye exam.
Eye exams should be done for new babies and at all well-child visits.footnote 1 Nearsightedness is usually first discovered in children of grade-school age.
How is nearsightedness 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.
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 your vision doesn't bother you and if you have no driving problems or other safety concerns, you don't need to have any treatment. Nearsightedness won't affect the health of your eye, and it won't get worse just because you don't wear glasses or don't have surgery.
If you are nearsighted, get regular eye exams, and see your eye care specialist if you have changes in your vision.
Current as of: October 12, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology