Myopia (Nearsightedness)

Myopia, or near-sightedness, is a vision condition in which, without a vision correction, near objects are seen clearly, but distant objects are out of focus.

Last Updated: November 29, 2023

October is Children's Vision Month!

Traditionally, optometrists have seized Children's Vision Health Month as a vital opportunity to enlighten their patients, and communities, about the crucial significance of regular eye examinations for children.

This year, we are resolute in our commitment to shatter misconceptions and reveal the real risks associated with vision impairment, especially myopia, which has evolved into a global public health crisis demanding our immediate attention.

Join us in the battle against childhood myopia. Together, let's #BeatTheBlur.

What is myopia?1

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is a visual condition in which near objects are seen clearly, but distant objects are blurry and do not come into proper focus.

Why does myopia occur?1-4

When the eyeball is too long or if the front of the eye (cornea) is too curved, light entering the eye is not focused properly onto the back of the eye (retina). The retina is the sensory layer of the eye that relays light as neural signals to the brain which allows us to see. Myopia describes the condition where lights are improperly focused onto the retina resulting in a blurry image being seen.

Myopia has both a genetic and environmental component. Children with parents who have myopia are more likely to be myopic themselves and show a faster rate of myopic progression. Increased near work such as reading and tablet use is also correlated with increased rate of myopia in children.

How common is myopia?5-6

Myopia is a very common visual condition that currently affects 30% of the population. By 2050, the prevalence of myopia is estimated to increase to 50% of the world’s population. Along with the rising prevalence, myopia is occurring in earlier ages starting in childhood (6-7 years of age) and progressing at a more rapid rate than the previous generations.

How is myopia diagnosed?

Getting a routine eye exam is the best way to diagnose myopia. At the eye exam, the optometrist will perform tests to determine if there is a prescription for myopia. People with myopia will have trouble seeing distant objects, such as the road sign, whiteboard, movie screen and TV. However, children with myopia may not report symptoms of blur because their vision is all they have known and assume everyone sees the way they see. Therefore, routine eye exams are crucial for the early detection and management of myopia. 

How is myopia treated?7-16

Studies have shown that an hour of outdoor time each day for children may help to delay the onset of myopia.7,8 Remember to wear sunglasses and sunscreen while outdoors.

Once myopia is diagnosed, glasses and contact lenses are the most common form of vision correction used to allow the individual to see clearly.9 Laser procedures (such as LASIK or PRK) and other surgical procedures (such as lens implants) may help to reduce an individual’s dependence on glasses or contact lenses.9

Depending on the child, the prescription may change or stay the same. As the child grows, so do their eyes, so oftentimes this will result in an increase in the amount of myopia as their eyes develop.10 Early detection and treatment of myopia is crucial, as some children may progress rapidly towards a higher prescription. High amounts of myopia is associated with increased risk of sight threatening conditions including retinal detachments, cataracts, glaucoma and myopic maculopathy.11,12 It is important to note that glasses, contact lenses, laser procedures and other surgical procedures are only altering the way that light enters the eyes, but they do not cure myopia and the sight threatening risks associated with it. However, there are treatment options for children with myopia to slow down the progress of myopia.13,14 These options include peripheral defocus glasses,15 peripheral defocus soft contact lenses,16 orthokeratology (ortho-k) hard contact lenses,17 and atropine eye drops.18

How does myopia impact daily life?

If glasses or contact lenses are prescribed, it may take up to two weeks to adjust to seeing clearly with them. Some people with myopia may find that they are restricted from some occupations such as police officers or fire fighters, due to their inability to see properly if their glasses fall off. In these cases, laser surgery may be useful. Contact lenses are very helpful for correcting myopia and are ideal for people with more active lifestyles. Visit your local optometrist to learn more about myopia.

Video: Can myopia be cured? | Dr. Dianna Leong


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