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What does ‘Nearsighted’ Mean?


The word "nearsighted" is just another term to describe myopia — the condition where it's impossible to see things clearly unless they are relatively close to your eyes.

A nearsighted person typically will be able to read a book or see a computer screen with ease but will have difficulty following the action on a movie screen or seeing words on a whiteboard at school.

A nearsighted eye generally is an eye that has grown too long, so light comes to a focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it. This error in focusing position (or refractive error) causes objects that are far away to appear blurry.

But a nearsighted person typically sees things up close clearly without eyeglasses or contact lenses. (Remember, a person with nearsightedness is "near-sighted.")

In Europe, people generally describe a nearsighted person as being "short sighted." The two terms mean the same thing.

Growth in nearsightedness

More than 40 percent of the U.S. population currently is nearsighted, and that number is expected to grow (as it has in past decades). Between 1971 and 2004, myopia increased by 66 percent in the United States, according to a study by the National Eye Institute.

Also, a recent study conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology predicts that half the world's population will be nearsighted by 2050, and that myopia may become the leading cause of vision loss.

For these reasons, many researchers are looking for effective ways to control the development and progression of myopia.

Treatment for nearsightedness

Currently, there is no cure for nearsightedness. But blurry vision caused by being nearsighted usually can be fully corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses, or refractive surgery (such as LASIK).

Eyeglasses are the most common treatment for myopia. For higher amounts of nearsightedness, high-index lenses reduce the thickness and weight of the glasses.

Contact lenses are available for virtually any amount of nearsightedness, even very high myopia. Also, ortho-k contact lenses have been shown to slow the progression of nearsightedness in children.

LASIK and other refractive surgery procedures should be considered only after nearsightedness has stabilized — generally, sometime after age 18.

To see if you or your children are becoming nearsighted, schedule a comprehensive eye examination with an eye doctor near you.

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Page updated September 2018