Nearsightedness is the inability of the eye to focus on distant objects.
Nearsightedness (also known as myopia and short sightedness) is a vision condition, not an eye disease. It affects almost 30 percent of adults and children in the United States, according to the American Optometric Association. More and more people around the world are being diagnosed with nearsightedness. A study by the National Eye Institute shows the occurrence of myopia grew from 25 percent of the U.S. population (ages 12 to 54) in 1971-1972 to about 42 percent in 1999-2004. This condition is caused by a refractive error, which occurs when your eye does not focus light as it should. The retina is the surface at the back of your eye that collects light. If you are nearsighted, your eye focuses light entering the eye in front of the retina instead of onto the retina.
The reason a myopic eye focuses incorrectly is because its shape is slightly abnormal. Usually, the eyeball is a little too long. And sometimes, the cornea (the clear covering on the front of your eye) is too rounded. According to the National Eye Institute, nearsightedness is most often diagnosed between the ages of 8 and 12. During this time, the eyes are still growing, so the shape can change. If you have the condition as a child, you will usually remain nearsighted. Typically, the condition progresses until about the age of 20 and then remains constant until the age of 40.
Key Takeaway: Nearsightedness is a common vision condition that is usually diagnosed in children. If you are nearsighted, you will have trouble seeing objects in the distance.
Why you might be nearsighted
Visual stress can increase the risk for nearsightedness. This means eyestrain from doing detailed work, such as reading or using a computer.
Nearsightedness can be an inherited condition. If one or both of your parents are nearsighted, you are likely to be as well.
Adults can become nearsighted due to certain health conditions, such as diabetes.
Environmental reasons may also contribute to this condition.
Key Takeaway: Nearsightedness can occur for a variety of reasons. The exact cause is not known. Factors that can increase the risk of this condition include visual stress, having parents who are nearsighted, other health conditions as an adult, and environmental reasons.
Seven signs and symptoms of nearsightedness
Look for these signs in yourself or your family members.
1. Blurry vision when looking at faraway objects. This is the most obvious symptom. A child may have trouble seeing the blackboard (or whiteboard) at school. An adult may have problems seeing objects farther away, like street signs, while driving.
2. Headaches or fatigue caused by eyestrain. Frequent headaches are another common sign you might be nearsighted.
3. Eyes that hurt or feel tired. If you have more difficulty focusing on things, your eyes may hurt or feel tired a lot.
4. The need to squint or partially close the eyes to see clearly or frowning often. Squinting helps you see more clearly and is often accompanied by frowning.
5. Difficulty seeing while driving at night. Night myopia is a condition in which the eye has greater difficulty seeing in low-illumination areas, even though daytime vision is normal. It is more common in younger people than the elderly.
6. The need to sit closer to the TV or to sit at the front of the classroom. If you notice your child starting to sit closer to the TV, nearsightedness might be the reason. You may also want to talk to your child’s teacher and see if your child has to sit close to the front.
7. Blinking excessively or rubbing the eyes frequently. Increased blinking or rubbing their eyes might be signs of being nearsighted.
Key Takeaway: If you notice one or several of the following symptoms, you might be nearsighted:
- Blurry vision
- Headaches or fatigue during certain activities
- Eyes that hurt or feel tired
- The need to squint
- Difficulty seeing while driving at night
- The need to sit closer to the TV or at school
- Blinking and rubbing the eyes frequently
When you should see a doctor
A basic eye exam can confirm whether or not you have nearsightedness. If you have difficulty seeing things far away and can’t perform certain tasks as well as you wish or you can’t fully enjoy certain activities, you should see an eye doctor. Also, if you experience a sudden onset of flashes or floaters or a shadow covering part of your vision, these are warning signs of retinal detachment — a rare complication of myopia. This is a medical emergency and needs to be addressed immediately. Regular eye exams can detect nearsightedness. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends people get eye exams according to the following schedule:
If you don’t wear glasses or contacts, have no symptoms or eye trouble, and are at a low risk of developing eye diseases, you should get an initial eye exam at 40. Then you should get an eye exam:
- Every two to four years from 40 to 54
- Every one to three years from 55 to 64
- Every one to two years beginning at age 65
If you’re at a high risk of eye diseases, get an eye exam every two to four years up to age 40. And then, every one to three years from 40 to 54. Beginning at age 55, you should get an eye exam every one to two years.
And if you wear glasses or contacts, you need to have your eyes checked regularly.
Children and teenagers
Children need to be screened for eye disease and have their vision tested at the following times:
- As a newborn
- At well-child visits until school age
- During the school years, every one to two years
Key Takeaway: You should see an eye doctor if you suspect you or your child may be nearsighted. Regular eye exams can detect nearsightedness.
How eyeglasses can help you if you are nearsighted
Glasses worn for nearsightedness compensate for the curvature of your cornea or your longer eye by shifting the focus of light as it enters your eye. Your prescription strength will depend on how far you can see clearly. Some people will need to wear glasses all the time, while others will need to wear them for certain activities, such as watching a movie or driving. For children, the International Myopia Prevention Association believes that nearsightedness can be prevented. How can this be accomplished? By giving children reading glasses for reading and other close work as soon as the first signs of nearsightedness appear.
This is why it’s so important to ask your child if they can see far away things and look for signs they may be nearsighted. If you act quickly enough, you can prevent the irreversible changes of the eye that cause nearsightedness.
Key Takeaway: Eyeglasses can correct your vision if you are nearsighted.
Eyes R Us in Smyrna, GA can diagnose your nearsightedness and create the right glasses for you and your family. Eyes R Us is a family eye care practice, so we welcome children and adults of all ages. We serve the Smyrna, Marietta, and Vinings areas, and specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases and conditions, as well as contact lenses and eyeglasses. Our optometrist, Dr. Horak, has been practicing optometry in Atlanta since 1996, and is the official consultant of the Cobb County School District. Another benefit of our office is our in-house lab, which allows us to cut most glasses in 30 minutes or less, so you won’t have to wait to see clearly.
We treat our patients like family and want you to be happy with our treatment. Join our family and contact us today. We look forward to seeing you soon and providing the best care possible.