Also known as myopia, short-sightedness affects around 5 million people in the UK. Most people develop myopia during childhood and it is usually detected at school when children have to strain to read what is on the whiteboard at the front of the class. Short-sightedness means that people cannot see objects or words that are a long way away from them; they often appear blurred and become clearer the closer a person gets to them.
What causes short-sightedness?
Myopia is caused by a blurring of the light rays that should pass clearly through the lens and to the retina at the back of the eye; if someone is short-sighted, the light rays focus in front of the retina which makes the object appear clouded instead of clear. Objects at a close distance appear clear because the rays of light enter the eye at a slight angle which means they are focused on the retina in the correct way. Myopia usually runs in families so you are more likely to develop it if other members of your family have it.
Symptoms of short-sightedness
Common symptoms of myopia include struggling to see things from a distance, straining to see the board at school or the television, for example, having blurred vision and developing headaches after trying to read or see things from far away. Watch out for children squinting or moving closer to objects to see them as they may not recognise that they have problems with their vision; if you notice these symptoms, take them for an eye test; children under the age of 16 are entitled to free eye tests on the NHS.
Most people wear glasses or contact lenses to correct short-sightedness; depending on the severity of your condition, you may only have to wear them for certain activities such as driving. Glasses are usually recommended for children, while many adults prefer contact lenses because glasses can be uncomfortable and many people don’t like the way they look when wearing glasses. Laser surgery may also be an option worth considering for people who want a long-term solution to their sight problems; this is an expensive procedure but initial results have been very positive. There are many different providers and clinics around so make sure you research the procedure and providers carefully before you choose to go ahead with the surgery; some people may not be suitable for laser correction surgery; your surgeon will be able to discuss this with you during an initial consultation.