What is myopia?

Myopia (short-sightedness) is the inability to see things clearly unless they're relatively close to your eyes. Also called shortsightedness or nearsightedness, myopia is the most common refractive error among children and young adults.

Myopia occurs when the eye grows too long from front to back, causing light to come to a focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it. In other words the focus falls short, which is why the condition is also called "short-sightedness." Other contributing factors include a cornea, (the clear window at the front of your eye), that is too curved for the length of the eyeball or a lens inside the eye that is too thick.

Distant objects and your driving vision will be blurry if you have myopia, but you still will be able to see some nearby objects clearly.

Myopia typically starts to develop during childhood and can progress gradually or rapidly. The most common symptoms of myopia are squinting, eye strain, headaches and fatigue.

Shortsightedness is the most common vision problem. Currently, about 1.5 billion people worldwide (nearly a quarter of the global population) are shortsighted. Myopia is especially prevalent in East Asia, where 70 to 80 percent of the people in some countries are affected.

The rate of myopia worldwide is increasing rapidly. It's estimated that by the year 2050, roughly half of the world population will be shortsighted.

Researchers aren't sure why myopia is becoming so common, but many optometrists believe there is an association between it and close-up work, including reading, studying, using computers and portable electronic devices (including tablets and smartphones), as well as reduced time spent outdoors.

Myopia tends to run in families. Researchers have discovered at least 24 genetic risk factors for myopia.

Myopia can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, which refocus light on the retina. Orthokeratology is increasing in popularity, the patient wears a contact lens overnight and in the morning their sight is clear without the lens. Once a shortsighted child becomes a young adult and their myopia stabilises, it can be also be permanently corrected with refractive surgery. LASIK is the most popular surgical procedure to correct shortsightedness.

If you or your children experience the signs or symptoms of myopia, schedule a comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist near you.

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