Myopia, also known as being near-sighted or short-sighted, is a very common cause of blurred vision, where far away objects appear out of focus. Myopia or short-sightedness affects around one third of people in the UK and can be detected during a routine eye test.

What is myopia and what does it mean?

A person with short sight will be able to see things up close quite clearly, like when they’re reading. But for tasks that require distance vision, like driving or watching TV, their vision is blurred.

Myopia symptoms and signs

It’s common for people with undiagnosed myopia to also experience symptoms like headaches or eyestrain when trying to focus on things far away.

People with severe myopia are more likely to experience conditions later in life such as glaucomacataracts, or retinal detachment.

How do I know if my child has myopia?

If your child has myopia, then they may complain about difficulty seeing into the distance, headaches, eye strain, and even fatigue.

Even if your child does not complain about their eyes or headaches specifically, there are other key signs you can look out for, including clumsiness, lack of concentration, eye rubbing, and falling behind with schoolwork or some developmental milestones.

If you are concerned about myopia in your child, then the best step is to take them for an eye test at your optician. Children can be tested at any age, even if they can’t yet read or talk.

While the optician will use the well-known letter chart with older children, with younger children they can show them pictures or shapes. They can also assess how long or short-sighted your child is simply by shining a light into their eye using a technique called retinoscopy.

Experience it for yourself.  If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be short-sighted, our vision simulator helps to give some answers.

Move the slider below to see how their vision might look.

Vision simulator reproduced with permission from CooperVision Inc. and its subsidiaries.

Causes of myopia

Myopia usually occurs when the eye is effectively too long – so the distance between the cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye) and the retina (the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) is too far. This means that light entering the eye is focused before it reaches the retina, which causes blurred vision.

Research suggests that, to adapt to this blurriness, the eye rather cleverly tries to elongate to capture the stray light rays on to the retina too. This can cause the eye to change shape which can then increase myopia as the child's eyes continue to grow.

There is a huge amount of research, both past and present into the blurred vision causes of myopia. It is currently believed that you are far more likely to develop myopia if one of your parents has it. However, the picture of who will or will not develop myopia is far from clear.

Can myopia be cured?

Although there is not a cure for myopia, the good news is that it can easily be corrected with the use of glasses or contact lenses with a minus lens power. This means the lens has a concave shape (curved inwards), which helps to improve your focus.

It may be that you need to wear glasses or contact lenses all the time, or just when you need them for clear distance vision e.g. when you’re driving or watching a film.

Adults may also have the option of laser eye surgery to correct their myopia. Your optician will be able to help you choose the right option for you.

Myopia management for children

Short sight is usually detected during a comprehensive eye test, which will test your vision as well as examining your eye in detail.

Children with myopia can have their vision corrected with normal glasses or contact lenses, which focus central light rays on the retina. These lenses give clear central vision, but some peripheral (non-central) light rays focus beyond the retina, so the image in that part of the retina is blurry.

For children who have short-sightedness, a practice called ‘myopia management’ might be an option, which aims to minimise the progression of myopia. This could be done by using specialist contact lenses or glasses lenses designed to minimise myopia progression in children.

Manage short-sightedness with glasses and contact lenses

Specsavers offers myopia management glasses lenses or contact lenses; it will depend on lifestyle and preference which one is most suitable. We have the following myopia management products:

MiSight® 1 day by CooperVision

Specially-designed myopia management daily-disposable contact lenses for children.

MiYOSMART by Hoya

Myopia management glasses lenses that are designed to be worn like everyday glasses.

These products both contain technology that focuses light in a different way to normal glasses and contact lenses. This could help reduce the elongation of the eye and potentially minimise how short-sighted the child could become.

  • Contact lenses are great for sports and leisure activities where children may prefer not to wear glasses.
  • Glasses give a stylish option with great frame ranges to suit your child’s personality.

Your optometrist will discuss these options with you to help you decide which product is right for you.

What is the difference between short-sighted and long sighted?

Short-sighted, also known as myopia, makes far away objects appear out of focus, but objects close are clearer.

Long sightedness, also known as hyperopia or hypermetropia, affects the ability to see objects nearby. People can usually see distant objects clearly, but closer objects tend to be out of focus.

What more can I do to help if my child has myopia?

There are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of myopia progression:

  • Time outdoors can help, two hours or more per day is advised
  • Limit time on close tasks and don’t hold books too close
  • Take regular breaks from close tasks
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