Myopia, commonly called shortsightedness, is a condition in which light is focussed in front of the retina, resulting in blurred vision. 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 and refractive surgery can all provide good distance vision for people with myopia.
Shortsighted people have difficulty in 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 shortsighted people. Often a person will not realise that they cannot see clearly but an eye examination by an optometrist will reveal the problem.
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:
- screwing up eyes to see distant objects;
- difficulty reading the blackboard at school;
- poor posture while reading; and
- lack of interest in playing outdoor games.
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 will enable a person with myopia to see clearly. Laser surgery to 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.
There is no certain prevention for myopia, however recent research has found that some drugs may slow the progression of myopia. Research is continuing on these drugs to determine whether they can be safely used by children to prevent myopia.
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 may get worse over the following few years.