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Short-sightedness (Myopia)

Short-sightedness (Myopia)


All you need to know about
short-sightedness (Myopia)

Myopia, or short-sightedness, is a common eye ailment that causes distant objects to look blurry while close ones are plainly seen.

It is estimated that up to one in every three people in the UK suffers with it, and it is getting increasingly common.

Short-sightedness can range from mild, in which case no therapy is required, to severe, in which case a person’s eyesight is severely impaired.

The illness can begin in youngsters as young as six years old and last until they are thirteen years old. Myopia may worsen during the adolescent years as the body grows rapidly. Adults can develop myopia.

The following are signs that your child may be nearsighted:

  • They need to sit near the front of the class at school because reading the whiteboard is challenging for them.
  • Sitting close to the TV
  • Complaining of headaches or tired eyes
  • Regularly rubbing their eyes

Symptoms of Short-sightedness

With a simple eye exam, an eye care specialist can identify short-sightedness. The following are the most prevalent signs of short-sightedness:

  • Headaches
  • Squinting
  • Eyestrain
  • Eye fatigue when you try to see objects more than a few feet away
  • Children with myopia often have trouble reading the whiteboard at school.

What causes Short-sightedness?

Short-sightedness (myopia) develops when the eyes grow somewhat too long, preventing them from producing a clear image of distant objects.

It’s unclear why this occurs, but it’s assumed to be the result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors interfering with the eye’s normal development.

How the eye works

The cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye) allows light to flow through and into the lens (the transparent structure that sits behind the cornea).

This focuses it on the retina (a light-sensitive tissue layer at the back of the eye) to generate an image, which is subsequently delivered to the brain.

The cornea must be smoothly curved and the eye must have the correct length to generate a completely clear vision.

Short-sighted people’s eyes have typically developed somewhat too long.

This implies that when you stare at distant objects, the light is concentrated a little distance in front of your retina rather than directly on it.

As a result, your brain receives a smudged image.

What can increase your risk?

Although it’s unclear why some people develop short-sightedness, there are a few factors that can raise your risk of having the condition.

Your genes

Short-sightedness is known to run in families, so if one or both of your parents are also short-sighted, you’re more likely to develop it.

More than 40 genes have been related to short-sightedness, according to research.

These are in charge of the construction and development of the eye, as well as signalling between the brain and the eyes.

Not enough time outdoors

Spending time outside as a child may reduce your chances of becoming short-sighted, and existing short-sightedness may progress more slowly, according to research.

This could be due to the fact that outside light is substantially brighter than indoor light.

Both sports and outdoor leisure appear to help reduce the likelihood of developing short-sightedness.

Excessive close work

Short-sightedness can be exacerbated by spending a lot of time focusing your eyes on close up items, such as reading, writing, and possibly using hand-held gadgets (phones and tablets) and computers.

As a result, an “everything in moderation” approach is often advocated.

While children should be encouraged to read, they should also spend time outside each day doing things that are not related to reading or computer gaming.


Refocusing light rays onto the retina of the eye is a simple way to correct short-sightedness. This is often accomplished by:

  • Most individuals with short-sightedness choose corrective lenses, either glasses or contact lenses as the simplest treatment option.
  • Orthokeratology is a cutting-edge procedure that employs personalised shape lenses to gently correct your vision while you sleep, allowing you to see clearly when you’re awake.
  • Surgical procedures are also available. These procedures remove small pieces of tissue from the cornea using laser technology or hand incisions.

Corrective lenses


Short-sightedness is frequently treated with glasses custom-made to your prescription.

For additional information on what your prescription means, see diagnosing short-sightedness.

Wearing a lens built to your prescription ensures that light is properly focused onto the retina (rear of the eye), preventing distant objects from appearing blurry.

The thickness and weight of the lenses you require will be determined by your level of nearsightedness.

As you become older, your eyesight may change, requiring you to wear two pairs of glasses: one for near vision activities such as reading, and the other for distance vision activities such as watching television.

Some people choose to wear bifocal lenses, which allow them to see clearly both up close and far away without having to change their glasses.

You can also acquire multifocal lenses, which allow you to see items in close proximity as well as those in medium and far distances (varifocal glasses).

Contact lenses

Contact lenses can be used in the same way as glasses to correct eyesight.

Because contact lenses are lightweight and nearly undetectable, some individuals prefer them to glasses, but others find them to be more of a problem than spectacles.

Contact lenses can be worn daily and discarded after each use (daily disposables) or disinfected and reused.

They can also be worn for longer periods of time, though most eye doctors advise against wearing contact lenses overnight due to the risk of infection.

Orthokeratology is a procedure used by some opticians on rare occasions.

This entails wearing a hard contact lens overnight to flatten the cornea’s curvature (the transparent layer at the front of the eye) so you can see better during the day without a lens or glasses.

Because the cornea normally returns to its natural shape, it isn’t a solution for short-sightedness, but it may help some people minimise their dependency on glasses.

Your optometrist can help you choose the best type of contact lenses for you.

If you choose to wear contact lenses, it’s critical that you maintain them clean and sterile to avoid eye infections.

Learn more about how to keep your contact lenses safe.

Availability and cost

If you’re eligible (for example, if you’re under 16 years old or get Income Support), you can get vouchers to help pay for glasses or contact lenses.

To see if you qualify for NHS eyecare, read about your options.

You’ll have to pay for glasses or contact lenses if you’re not qualified. Depending on the frame you choose, the price of glasses can vary dramatically.

Designer spectacles start at several hundred pounds, while entry-level glasses start at roughly £50.

Contact lens prices vary based on your prescription and the type of lens you select.

Monthly disposables can cost £5 to £10 per month, whereas daily disposables might cost £30 to £50 per month.

Laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery involves burning away small parts of your cornea with a laser to straighten the curvature and better focus light onto your retina.

Laser eye surgery is divided into three categories:

  • PRK Photorefractive keratectomy – a procedure in which a small portion of the cornea’s surface is removed and a laser is used to remove tissue and alter the cornea’s shape.
  • LASEK laser epithelial keratomileusis – is similar to PRK, but involves using alcohol to soften the surface of the cornea so that a flap of tissue may be lifted out of the way while a laser is used to alter the curvature of the cornea; the flap is then replaced.
  • LASIK laser in situ keratectomy – identical to LASEK, but a smaller corneal flap is generated.

These treatments are frequently done as outpatient procedures, which means you won’t have to stay in the hospital overnight.

The procedure normally takes less than 30 minutes, and a local anaesthetic is used to numb your eyes during the procedure.

Which procedure is best for you?

Although all three laser eye surgery techniques provide identical results, their recovery timeframes vary.

LASEK or LASIK are usually the favoured techniques because they are almost painless and your vision will begin to improve within a few hours or days. However, it could take up to a month for your vision to totally stabilise.

PRK is a difficult procedure, and it might take months for your eyesight to stabilise afterwards.

LASIK can only be performed if your cornea is sufficiently thick. The danger of problems, such as vision loss, is too high if your cornea is thin.

If your cornea is too thin for LASIK, LASEK and PRK may be an option.

You may also learn more about laser surgery for refractive problems at the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).


The outcomes of all three procedures are usually positive.

While it is not always feasible to entirely cure short-sightedness, about 9 out of 10 persons see a considerable improvement in their vision.

Many people are able to meet the legal driving vision standards.

The majority of patients who get laser surgery are pleased with the results.

However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that laser surgery may not always enhance your vision as much as using corrective glasses.

Laser surgery, like any other type of surgery, carries the possibility of consequences.

Risks and complications

There are some dangers associated with laser eye surgery, including:

  • Dry eyes – this normally lasts a few months, during which time you can use specific eye drops to moisten your eyes.
  • Too much corneal tissue is removed – this happens about once in every 20 instances and can result in a long-sighted eye.
  • Night vision loss — this normally goes away after 6 weeks.
  • Haze around strong lights – this normally passes after 6 to 12 months.

There’s also a chance that significant issues, like the cornea becoming too thin or inflamed, might jeopardise your vision.

However, these issues are uncommon, occurring in less than one out of every 500 cases.

Before electing to have laser eye surgery, be sure you are aware of all the dangers.

Who can’t have laser surgery?

If you’re under the age of 21, you should avoid any type of laser eye surgery. This is due to the fact that your vision may still be developing.

Even if you’re over 21, you should only have laser eye surgery if your glasses or contact lens prescription hasn’t changed considerably in the last two years or more.

You might not be a good candidate for laser surgery if you:

  • Diabetes can create anomalies in the eyes, which can be exacerbated by corneal laser surgery.
  • If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding – hormones in your body will create minor changes in your vision, making accurate surgery harder.
  • Have an immune-system-related illness, such as HIV or rheumatoid arthritis? (these conditions may affect your ability to recover after surgery).
  • Have additional eye disorders, such as glaucoma (increased intraocular pressure) or cataracts (cloudy patches in the lens of the eye).

People with a prescription of up to -10D can usually benefit from laser eye surgery.

Learn more about how to diagnose short-sightedness.

Lens implants may be a better option if your short-sightedness is severe.

Availability and cost

Because other therapies, including spectacles or contact lenses, are deemed to be equally, if not more, successful, laser surgery is not normally provided on the NHS.

As a result, you’ll almost always have to pay for the surgery yourself.

The cost of a procedure varies based on where you live, the clinic you visit, and the type of equipment utilised.

For each eye, you should expect to pay between £800 and £1,500 as a conservative estimate.

Lens implant surgery

Short-sightedness surgery with lens implants is a relatively novel procedure. A small cut in your cornea is used to implant an artificial lens into your eye.

The lenses were created with the goal of focusing light more clearly on the retina.

They can help persons with very severe short-sightedness or who have trouble wearing glasses or contact lenses to improve their vision.

The two most common forms of lens implants are:

  • Phakic implant – a procedure in which an artificial lens is implanted into your eye without removing your natural lens; frequently favoured by younger people with normal natural reading vision.
  • Artificial replacement – comparable to cataract surgery, where the natural lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one.

Both types of implants are routinely placed under local anaesthesia, and you can usually go home the same day. Typically, each eye will be treated separately.


In terms of long-term vision improvement, phakic lens implants may be more effective than lens replacements. However, there is a larger chance of problems, such as cataracts, with this procedure.

The majority of people will see a significant improvement in their vision overall. Afterwards, about 1 in 4 people may have almost normal eyesight (“20/20” vision).

For older adults with damage to their eyes or an eye problem other than short-sightedness, such as cataracts or glaucoma, a lens replacement may be a better option.

Furthermore, because both procedures are new, there is limited data on whether they are safe or successful in the long run.

Risks and complications

Surgery to insert artificial lens implants in the eyes, like all medical operations, carries the risk of problems.

One of the most common consequences of lens implant surgery is posterior capsule opacification (PCO). This is where a portion of the artificial lens thickens and gets hazy.

PCO typically develops months or years following surgery. Laser surgery to remove the thickened section of the lens can be used to treat PCO.

Other risks associated with the lens implant surgery include:

  • Retinal detachment (where the retina begins to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients)
  • Cataracts
  • Seeing a halo of light around objects at night
  • Reduced night vision
  • Glaucoma

You should discuss each operation with your doctor or surgeon so that you are fully aware of any potential dangers.

Availability and cost

Lens implant surgery, like laser surgery, isn’t normally covered by the NHS.

Both types of surgery are costly, with many clinics estimating rates in the region of £4,000 to £5,000 for both eyes.