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What is Nearsightedness?

Sometimes referred to as shortsightedness, the condition of nearsightedness is properly known as myopia. People who are nearsighted have relatively little trouble clearly seeing objects that are in close proximity. However, objects at greater distances appear blurry around the edges and may lose all visual definition if the distance is great enough. Nearsightedness is a common visual impairment and can usually be corrected with the use of corrective lenses or by surgery.

Nearsightedness occurs due to a problem with the refractive abilities of the eye. Depending on the type and degree of myopia present, the cornea may be positioned in such a way that light does not reach the retina properly. Often, the overall shape of the eye is somewhat elongated, which can also distort the refraction of light.

There is some difference of opinion as to what causes nearsightedness. Many experts believe that the origins of the eye disorder are genetic, and often point to cases where the children of nearsighted parents develop the identical or at least a similar form of myopia. Others believe that nearsightedness is a combination of genetic factors plus environmental and lifestyle issues that may exacerbate an underlying problem.

Nearsighted people use one of two methods to correct the visual problem. The first and most common option is wearing corrective lenses. After an examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, the individual is fitted with glasses or contact lenses that compensate for the shape of the eye and the placement of the cornea. With the aid of the corrective lenses, light is refracted properly on the retina and allows the individual to enjoy a normal range of vision.

A second and more recent innovation in dealing with nearsightedness is a surgical procedure known as laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis, or LASIK. LASIK is performed to alter the shape of the eye so that light reaches the retina properly. While surgery is a viable option for many nearsighted people, there are situations where LASIK is not able to totally correct the condition.

When this is the case, individuals must determine if they prefer to forego the surgery and wear a stronger lens prescription, or undergo the surgery for partial enhancement and be able to wear a lighter prescription. This combination approach is especially helpful for people who still meet the criteria for having LASIK surgery, and would like to wear contact lenses rather than eye glasses.

While nearsightedness often appears early in life, it is not unusual for people to begin experiencing a problem beginning in their forties. Because the condition can develop at a slow rate, the individual may not notice the incremental but steady deterioration of vision. There are several signs that point to the possibility of the development of nearsightedness, including more frequent headaches, unusual fatigue after engaging in activities such as driving, or having to hold a newspaper or book closer in order to read the print.

People who believe they may be suffering from more than temporary eyestrain should consult an optometrist immediately. When there is an existing health issue that could impact the function of the eyes, such as diabetes, an ophthalmologist should be consulted. With proper care and treatment, it is possible to alleviate stress on the eyes and enjoy a good level of vision.


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