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Short-sightedness (myopia)

3-minute read

Short-sightedness (also known as myopia) is a common eye condition that causes distant objects to appear blurred. Someone with myopia can achieve good vision with prescription glasses, contact lenses or laser surgery. Short-sightedness usually first appears in childhood.

What causes short-sightedness?

When light enters the eye, it is bent by the cornea (the clear layer on the front of the eye) and the lens. If you have normal vision, the light waves are brought into focus right on the retina, the layer at the back of the eye. If you are short-sighted, the light waves from distant objects focus in front of, rather than on, the retina.

Short-sightedness usually appears in the pre-teen years and often gets worse for a few years. It can also develop later — even in early adulthood. It is becoming more common.

Myopia has been linked to spending many hours doing activities such as reading, schoolwork or using a computer, while spending less time outdoors.

You can also inherit short-sightedness from your parents.

Illustration showing the differences between normal vision and short-sightedness. The image also shows the location of the focal point, lens, cornea, retina and sclera
Short-sightedness causes light to focus in front of the retina instead of on the back of the eye, causing distant objects to appear blurred.

How can I tell if I'm short-sighted?

If you are short-sighted, distant objects will appear blurred when you look at them. It can be hard to tell, but you might notice that other people can see distant objects more clearly than you can.

Children might have difficulty reading the board in class or be reluctant to play outdoor sports. Your child might squint to see things at a distance or they might sit very close to the television.

If you feel that you or your child might be short-sighted, see your doctor or optometrist for an eye test.

Diagnosis of short-sightedness

An eye test will allow an optometrist or ophthalmologist to diagnose short-sightedness. You might be asked to read a chart with large letters at the top and smaller letters on lower lines.

Children should have their vision checked when they start both primary and secondary schools.

Treatment of short-sightedness

Short-sightedness is usually corrected with prescription glasses. Contact lenses are also an option, but generally not for children. Laser refractive eye surgery is now also common, but is only appropriate for adults.

Some research suggests that certain treatments might be able to slow the progression of short-sightedness in children. If you want to know more about this, talk to your optometrist or doctor.

Even if you have no concerns about your vision, it is a good idea to have your eyes checked every 2 years.

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Last reviewed: September 2019

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