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What is short-sightedness (myopia)?

If you are short-sighted you have problems seeing things in the distance clearly, but can see things that are close. There are varying degrees of short-sightedness.

Who is affected by short-sightedness (myopia)?

Around a third of people in the UK are short-sighted. The condition usually starts during primary school years and tends to worsen until the eye has stopped growing. Myopia can also develop in very young children. Adults may also become short-sighted. You are more likely to become short sighted if your parents are also short sighted.

What are the causes of short-sightedness (myopia)?

Short-sightedness is usually due to the eye being slightly too long, which means that light focuses in front of the retina at the back of your eye, rather than focussing directly on it. This means distant vision appears blurry.

How myopic could I become?

The exact causes of myopia are not fully understood, so it is difficult to predict accurately how myopic a person may become in the future. Researchers know that the following things may make it more likely that a child will eventually become myopic:

  • having one or both parents with myopia
  • being of east-Asian ethnic origin
  • prolonged near vision activities
  • spending limited time outdoors.

Becoming myopic before nine years old may increase the risk of developing a high level of myopia. If a person has a high level of myopia, they will be at a slightly greater risk of serious eye conditions later in life compared to people with normal vision. These conditions include retinal detachments, glaucoma and myopic retinal degeneration and can potentially lead to sight loss. However most cases can be treated and the risk of developing these conditions among the general population is small.

How do you treat short-sightedness (myopia)?

Myopia is usually easy to correct with standard glasses and contact lenses. Some adults with myopia have laser surgery to correct it. While these help solve blurry vision, they do not slow down or prevent eye myopia. However, there are some treatments that may slow down myopia during childhood. This is called myopia management.

How can you prevent short-sightedness (myopia)?

Myopia management treatments slow myopia progression but does not prevent myopia.

Research shows that spending more time outdoors may help prevent or delay myopia from developing in children at risk of developing myopia. This may also benefit children with existing myopia by slowing progression, but evidence for this is not strong.

Long periods of near work (such as reading and screen use) may contribute to myopia development and progression. Researchers do not fully understand why this happens. Spending more time on near work might mean your child will spend less time outdoors.

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