Living with Nearsightedness

What is Nearsightedness?

Nearsightedness is medically termed as myopia, a Greek word directly translated as shortsightedness. Nearsighted people can see detailed or focused images when looking at near objects or at close range.  Hence, they have no problem reading or working in front of PC monitors. But everything beyond this range is blurred. It is not a disease but a refractive disorder of the eye, an optical system aberration where the collimated light results in the perceived image getting focused in front of the retina instead of on it. This makes looking at distant objects out of focus or blurred.


Normal refraction that results in clear detailed vision can only happen when light rays carrying the image you see are correctly focused at the retinal plane. Myopia or nearsightedness happens when the focus occurs before reaching the retinal plane. Hence, you get a blurred vision for far objects. This is due to a longer distance between the front cornea and the back retina across a slightly longer eyeball that is oblongated on the horizontal plane.  It can also be caused from a bulge in the cornea or a shorter distance between the cornea and the lens behind it.  These are anatomical or morphological aberrations that have genetic roots and worsen as you age. If your family has a history of nearsighted family members, chances are high you will also develop one. The condition can appear early in children and may stabilize to normal vision, but it can worsen with age in what is called a myopic creep.


Nearsightedness presents itself as seeing blurred far-field objects but normal clarity in near-field objects. But in severe cases of myopia, there is progressive blurring even on objects at close range.  The condition is particularly dangerous when you have to drive a car when getting a good far-field vision on the road is critical to safe driving.  Engaging in most sports may also prove difficult and creates a handicap that can add to the sporting challenge.

Nearsighted people who first develop the condition can suffer headaches, eye strain and may squint or suffer fatigued and pained vision when playing sports or driving. And when you experience these symptoms while wearing prescriptive eyeglasses or contacts, it only means you need to get another eye check-up for upgrading your prescription eyewear.

Diagnosing the Condition

Nearsightedness can be diagnosed and confirmed during a standard eye exam and vision test conducted by your doctor, ophthalmologist or optometrist.  A simple visit to the mall optometrist in many commercial optical centers in malls can also give you the needed eye tests.

Reading the Snellen or E-chart from 20-ft can already betray difficulty in deciphering the letters in a visual acuity test. A subsequent refraction test using a retinoscope or autorefractor will provide an initial objective measure of the refractive ability of each eye.  A phoropter is then used to further refine the dioptric values needed to specify your prescription eyeglasses or contacts. Negative dioptric values indicate nearsightedness to tell your optometrist the kind or eyeglasses or contact lens you can test in a phoropter.

Treating the Condition

As an optical refractory disorder, nearsightedness is easily corrected with the use of prescriptive eyeglasses and contacts.  However, people with the condition cannot expect improvement since these corrective lenses cannot arrest the progression of the disorder.  It is a common observation that the condition can only worsen as you age and your prescription eyewear needs to be adjusted accordingly.

The corrective lenses use single concave curvature that refocuses the image to land on the retinal plane rather than before it.  Depending on the severity of the condition and your work, myopic or nearsighted persons may have to wear their prescription glasses at more times of the day as most activities require getting a clear view of things and people from a distance like driving, meeting with people, and watching a movie or TV, etc.  The only time you need to remove it is when reading or working up close. Nearsighted people who spend most of their time before a PC can enjoy not wearing one for most of the day.

If you prefer a longer lasting solution to nearsightedness or are bothered with wearing contacts or eyeglasses, refractive surgery is the treatment option to consider.  It is an outpatient procedure that only require local anesthesia on the eyes, usually accomplished by anesthetic eyedrops. LASIK and PRK are the most common, excising corneal tissue through lasers to slightly flatten it for a closer focus to the retina.  A new treatment called orthokeratology or corneal refractive therapy involves wearing special contacts that reshapes the cornea, usually at night while asleep, so you can function without one in the daytime.