Approximately 32% of the world is nearsighted. These numbers would make it an epidemic if it were a fatal disease.

The societal costs of the condition are also growing. It’s already ranked the 11th most expensive, ahead of congestive heart failure and lung and breast cancer.

The medical name for nearsightedness is myopia. Read on to learn what it means, what causes it, the symptoms it can cause, and how to treat it.

Definition and Causes

Myopia is a refractive error of the eye. It’s one of a group of conditions that affects refraction, or the way light focuses on the retina. Problems with this process affect how your brain processes images and makes them blurry.

Myopia makes light focus in front of the retina instead of on it. This makes it difficult to see far-away objects such as street signs or words on a page.

The condition can be caused by a range of problems in the shape of the eye. The cornea may be too steeply curved, or the eye itself may be too long.


Myopia first appears in children when they’re 6-14 years old. It may get worse during adolescence but tends not to change after you’ve turned 20.

One of the major risk factors for myopia is a family history of the condition. There’s also evidence that not getting enough time outside or staring at nearby screens or words may play a part.

Problems with distance vision are the key signs of myopia. Other symptoms include squinting, eyestrain, and headaches. It may also present without symptoms and go unnoticed.

Always see an optometrist at least once a year to have myopia identified early. It increases the risk of other serious eye conditions such as:

  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Myopic maculopathy
  • Retinal detachment


Doctors include checks for myopia as part of a comprehensive eye exam.

The well-known vision test where you’re asked to read letters from a chart is a measure of visual acuity. Normal numbers are 20/20, and nearsightedness is around 20/40.

A phoropter is a series of lenses placed in front of your eye. A retinoscope measures how light reflects off of them onto your eye.

The exam helps determine the right prescription for you if your doctor recommends the most common treatment for myopia; glasses or contact lenses. In serious cases, you may need surgery to change the shape of your eye. Learn more about ICL surgery here.

Where to Learn More About Myopia

Myopia, also known as nearsightedness, is an increasingly common vision problem. It’s caused by refractive errors that affect how light reflects off your eye and makes far-away objects blurry.

You may not know you have myopia if it doesn’t present common symptoms like headaches and eye strain. Getting regular eye exams is the best way to prevent it.

An ophthalmologist can perform a regular exam to check for myopia. They’ll use it to determine the right treatment for you, whether it’s glasses or refractive surgery.

Read on to learn about other eye disorders and how to maintain your eye health.