Myopia is when people cannot see clearly in the distance without glasses or contact lenses
Myopic (short-sighted) people cannot see clearly in the distance without glasses or contact lenses.
This is because of a focusing problem. Usually, light comes in through the lens and focuses on the retina at the back of the eye. In myopia, the light is focused too far forward in the eye, in front of the retina, which causes things to look blurred in the distance.
About three in 10 people in the UK are short-sighted and about 5% of those have severe myopia.
People typically become short-sighted in their teenage years or twenties.
Causes of myopia
Several factors probably combine to cause myopia. There is a tendency for myopia to run in families. Myopia usually appears around puberty, but can appear at any age from early childhood.
In most cases, myopia stabilises in once the body is fully grown, usually in the mid-twenties or earlier.
A widely held misconception is that myopia corrects itself with age. Although patients with low-level myopia can read without glasses throughout life, their distance vision remains poor.
Treatments for myopia
It is generally possible to correct myopia with prescription glasses or contact lenses, using concave (curved inwards) lenses, which move the focus of the light backwards onto the retina, allowing you to see clearly. Glasses and contact lenses are available from high-street optician outlets.
If you choose contact lenses, daily disposables are the safest type for most patients with myopia. Overnight wear should be avoided, as this increases the risk of infection.
Laser eye surgery is also an option once your prescription is stable, which usually happens in the mid-twenties or earlier. Laser eye surgery to correct myopia is not available on the NHS.
To find out more about laser and implant-based techniques, please contact Moorfields Private, our unit for fee-paying patients.