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Short-sightedness (myopia)

Short-sightedness, also known as myopia, affects up to 1 in 3 people in the UK.

A person who is short-sighted will see things in the distance as being blurred, but close-up objects are still clear.

Short-sightedness can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or eye surgery.

What causes myopia?

People who are short-sighted have what is called a refractive error. In people with myopia, the eyeball is too long or the cornea has too much curvature, so the light entering the eye is not focused correctly. Images focus in front of the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye, rather than directly on the retina, causing blurred vision.

Myopia runs in families and usually appears in childhood. Usually the condition plateaus, but it can worsen with age.

What are the symptoms of myopia?

People who are short-sighted often complain of headaches, eyestrain, squinting or fatigue when driving, playing sport, or looking more than a few feet away. Children commonly complain of not being able to see the board at school.


How is myopia diagnosed?

Myopia can be easily diagnosed using standard sight tests given by an optician.

How is myopia treated?

Glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery can correct myopia.

With myopia, your prescription for glasses or contact lens is a negative number, such as -3.00. The higher the number, the stronger your lenses will be. The prescription helps the eye focus light on the retina, clearing up the vision.

Refractive surgery can reduce or even eliminate your dependence on glasses or contact lenses. The most common procedures for myopia include:

  • Photorefractive keratectomy. Also called PRK, a laser is used to remove a layer of corneal tissue, which flattens the cornea and allows light rays to focus closer to or even on the retina.
  • Laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis. Commonly called LASIK, a laser is used to cut a flap through the top of the cornea, a laser removes some corneal tissue, then the flap is dropped back into place. LASIK is the most common procedure used to correct short-sightedness.

Plastic corneal rings are implanted into the eye to alter the shape of the cornea. One advantage of the rings is that they may be left in place permanently, may be removed in case of a problem, or adjusted should a prescription change be necessary.

Laser surgery is normally unavailable on the NHS and most people pay for this type of treatment privately.


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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on April 20, 2016

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