Myopia, commonly called shortsightedness, is a condition in which light is focused in front of the retina, resulting in blurred vision. This is normally due to the eye being too long for the focusing power of the eye. Shortsighted people can often see reasonably clearly at short distances, but will not be able to see distant objects clearly.
There is currently no cure for myopia, but spectacles, contact lenses, orthokeratology and refractive surgery can all provide good distance vision for people with this condition. Due to the structural change to the eye, myopia increases the risk of ocular disease such as retinal detachment, cataract and glaucoma later in life.
Shortsighted people have difficulty seeing distant objects clearly. They find it hard to read road signs and scoreboards and to play ball games. Recognising people in the distance may be a problem for many short-sighted people. Often a person will not realise that they cannot see clearly but an eye examination by an optometrist will reveal the problem.
CAPTION: A view typical of someone with myopia
A complete eye test is the only sure way of determining whether your child's vision is normal. Some clues to myopia in a child are:
The exact causes of myopia are not known. At various times people have blamed excessive amounts of reading, poor metabolism, poor diet, poor light, poor posture and genetic factors. Recent research has shown that the development of myopia is influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
Despite ongoing research, a cure for myopia has not yet been found. Properly prescribed spectacles or contact lenses, including orthokeratology lenses, will enable a person with myopia to see clearly. Laser surgery to permanently reshape the front surface of the eye can also help some people with myopia. Your optometrist can advise you about the latest developments and whether they would be suitable for you.
The progression of myopia can be slowed and in some cases halted completely with speciality contact lenses or therapeutic eye drops. See our Myopia Control page for more information.
It is a very common condition. About 15 per cent of the Australian population is shortsighted. Usually myopia begins to develop in teenage years and it commonly gets worse over the following few years.