Nearsightedness affects males and females equally. People who have a family history of nearsightedness are more likely to develop it. Most eyes with nearsightedness are healthy, but a small number of people with severe myopia develop a form of retinal degeneration.
A nearsighted person sees close up objects clearly, but objects in the distance are blurred. Squinting will tend to make far away objects seem clearer.
Nearsightedness is often first noticed in school-aged children or teenagers. Children often cannot read the blackboard, but they can easily read a book.
Nearsightedness gets worse during the growth years. People who are nearsighted need to change glasses or contact lenses often. It usually stops progressing as a person stops growing in his or her early twenties.
Call for an appointment with your ophthalmologist if your child shows these signs, which may indicate a vision problem:
Having difficulty reading the blackboard in school or signs on a wall
Holding books very close when reading
Sitting close to the television
Call for an appointment with your ophthalmologist if you or your child is nearsighted and experiences signs of a possible retinal tear or detachment, including:
Sudden loss of any part of the field of vision
There is no way to prevent nearsightedness. Reading and watching television do not cause nearsightedness. In the past, dilating eye drops were proposed as a treatment to slow the development of nearsightedness in children, but they have never been proven effective.
The use of glasses or contact lenses does not affect the normal progression of myopia -- they simply focus the light so the nearsighted person can see distant objects clearly. Hard contact lenses will sometimes hide the progression of nearsightedness, but vision will still get worse "under" the contact lens.
Olitsky SE, Hug D, Smith LP. Abnormalities of refraction and accommodation. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 619.
Wilkinson PS, David EA, Hardten DR. LASIK. In: Yanoff M, Duker JS, eds. Ophthalmology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 3.5.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; and Franklin W. Lusby, MD, Ophthalmologist, Lusby Vision Institute, La Jolla, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.