Young man with glasses staring into the disstance

Myopia

Living with nearsightedness

If you have myopia, objects in the distance appear blurry and objects up close are sharply focused. Myopia occurs when incoming light is not accurately focused onto the back of the eye. This can be due to the cornea being too steep for the length of the eye.  

Boy far away blurry, soccer ball close by is in focus

Close objects are sharply focused; distant objects are out of focus.

What Is Myopia?

Myopia is the most common eye condition in the world. In some areas, over half of the population is affected. Myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, is a result of the eye having too much refractive power in relation to its length. In other words, light is brought into focus (the focal point) before reaching the retina, because the eye has too much optical power.

This results in faraway objects appearing blurry, because the light is not focused on the retina, where the optic nerve transmits the image to the brain.

The prescription and refractive power of myopia is given in negative diopter. The higher the number, the more severe your refractive error is. Depending on your level of myopia, you may only be able to clearly see objects several centimeters away from you, and in more mild cases, a couple of meters away.

Light rays are refracted by the cornea (1) and the lens (2) in such a way that the focal point (3) is in front of the retina (4).

Light rays are refracted by the cornea (1) and the lens (2) in such a way that the focal point (3) is in front of the retina (4).

Causes of Myopia

Myopia cannot be prevented

Usually myopia begins to develop between the ages of 6 and 12. The likelihood of this vision defect is increased if one or both of your parent are nearsighted. Although everyone is different, the degree typically changes gradually every year, sometimes more frequently, until later in teenage years. At this age, the severity of the refractive error usually peaks. In rare cases myopia may continue to progress.

While myopia cannot be prevented because the eye condition is hereditary or occurs during growth spurts, research is currently focused on slowing the progression of myopia. 

 

Symptoms of Myopia

Common symptoms of myopia include

  • headaches from eye strain, for instance after watching TV or going to the cinema
  • difficulty focusing on distant objects, for instance while driving — particularly at night 
  • frequent squinting and eye strain when trying to focus on objects in the distance

Severe myopia can also lead to more degenerative changes in the back part of the eye such as retinal detachment. Therefore, it is important to diagnose and treat myopia. Both ophthalmologists and optometrists can recognize the vision defect through a basic eye exam. Myopia is a vision condition, and unless severe, is not a harmful disease. The eye is still healthy, but requires visual aids.

Options to Correct Myopia

If you suffer from myopia, there are several ways your vision could be corrected. You should consult with an ophthalmologist or optometrist to determine which options are available to you.

  • Glasses can be an easy way to improve your vision. Prescription glasses can fix refractive errors by altering the angle light rays enter the eye. Depending on your style and budget, there is an enormous selection of frames and eyeglass lenses to choose from.
  • Contact lenses work under the same principles as glasses. Contact lenses differ in materials (hard and soft) and duration of use (daily disposables or extended wear). It is important to note that contact lenses are not without risks.
  • Laser eye surgery is another option to treat myopia. SMILE, LASIK and PRK/LASEK all treat refractive errors over a broad prescription range. These surgeries have high rates of success. Like all surgeries though, they are not without risks.
  • Intraocular lens (IOL) exchange is another option that a doctor may recommend to correct myopia in certain patients. This is a surgical procedure in which an artificial lens is implanted in place of the natural lens. Intraocular lens exchange is a common procedure for patients suffering from cataracts, while refractive or clear lens exchange refers to patients without cataract. Your doctor can recommend this if it is an option for you as well as which type of IOL is right for you and your refractive error. Like all surgeries though, it is not without risks.
  • Phakic intraocular lens (PIOL) is an artificial lens which is implanted in addition to the existing natural lens and is used in refractive surgery to change the eye's optical power. Like all surgeries though, it is not without risks.
A father reading a story to his little daughter

Visual Aids

Living with glasses and contact lenses

Well over half the world’s population relies on glasses or contact lenses to see well. For many of these people, this may be the best option, and today, there are a variety of spectacle lens and contact lens options available for a wide range of vision needs.

However, many wearers have problems wearing glasses or contact lenses and find that their dependency on visual aids interferes with their daily lives.

Many people want to see – to see well without glasses or contact lenses. Laser eye surgery may provide an alternate solution to glasses and contact lenses. Consult with your eye doctor to determine the best option for your vision and daily life.