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MYOPIA (Nearsightedness)
An excerpt from the book Taking Care of Your Eyes.

Taking Care of Your EyesWhen you are nearsighted (myopic), your vision is clear for objects close to your eyes, but blurred for everything in the distance. If a child cannot see the blackboard clearly from the back of the classroom, chances are that he or she is nearsighted.

Myopia comes in all degrees, from minimal to extreme. The more myopic you are, the more blurred your distance vision, but the closer up you can see clearly. In other words, your range of clear vision is much closer to your eyes than if you weren't nearsighted. Approximately 40% of the population has some myopia or will develop it at some time in their lives.

Most commonly, myopia begins to appear gradually between the ages of 8 and 12, though it can exist at birth or start to develop as late as age 80. Myopia may be a nuisance but it is certainly not a disease; most nearsighted people have perfectly healthy eyes. Many "myopes" are happy to be able to see things clearly up close without glasses. In fact, this ability can be a real advantage, especially after middle age.

Understanding Myopia

Sharp vision -- like the picture from a properly focused camera -- depends on light rays coming to a focus on the retina (at the back of the eye), just as light focuses on the film (at the back of a camera). When light rays do not come to a focus on the retina, vision will be blurred, and we say that a refractive (optical) error exists.

Myopia is just one type of refractive error. The others are hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (uneven focusing), and presbyopia (the inability to focus up close, which affects most people around middle age). In myopia, the rays from distant objects focus in front of, rather than on, the retina. Myopia is like a camera that is in focus only for near objects; anything in the distance is out of focus.

What Causes Myopia?

In most cases, myopia is the result of a size variable, like foot size or tallness. The myopic eye is larger or elongated - too long for its optical power - which means its optical power too strong for the eye. (You shouldn't think of nearsightedness as "weak eyes.") Research suggests that ordinary myopia and how fast it progresses during adolescence are determined by heredity -- it tends to run in families. It is not caused by using your eyes"too much" (you never hurt your eyes by using them).

Why Does Myopia Get "Worse" as the Child Gets Older?

As children's bodies grow, so do the eyes, which may cause a gradual increase in myopia. And just as bodily growth can be in uneven spurts, the changes in myopia may be similarly uneven. During adolescence, the change can be rather rapid and require a new, thicker eyeglass correction more than once a year, but when body growth slows or stops (usually by age 18), the myopia tends to stabilize. There is normally no reason to worry about the frequent changes in lens correction that occur during adolescence. Almost never is there any real danger to eyesight, and vision can almost always be corrected to 20/20 or better with eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Note: There is an extremely rare type of myopia, called malignant progressive myopia, which is a serious condition and leads to gradual structural damage to the eye. This type needs regular clinical evaluation. It is not related to ordinary myopia and does not develop from ordinary myopia.

Lens Correction for Myopia

Fortunately, eyeglasses or contact lenses provide a simple, effective way to provide clear vision - by optically reducing the excess power of the myopic eye. Wearing your correction will make your distance vision clear. The more nearsighted you are, the more you will want to wear your correction. Not wearing it, however, will not harm your eyes in any way.

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