Short-sightedness (myopia)

Short-sightedness (myopia) is a very common eye condition where you cannot see objects far away clearly. It's usually corrected with glasses or contact lenses.

Signs of short-sightedness

Short-sightedness usually starts in children from age 6 to 13. It can also happen in adults.

Signs you or your child may be short-sighted include:

  • difficulty reading words from a distance, such as reading the whiteboard at school
  • sitting close to the TV or computer, or holding a mobile phone or tablet close to the face
  • getting headaches
  • rubbing the eyes a lot

Short-sightedness often runs in families, so you may have relatives who are also short-sighted.

It can get worse until the eye has stopped growing, at around 20 years of age.

Go to an opticians if:

  • you or your child has signs of short-sightedness
  • you or your child has not had an eye test for 2 years

What happens during an eye test

To check if you or your child is short-sighted, an eye test specialist called an optometrist will usually do an eye test.

You'll be asked to look at a light or read letters on a chart while different lenses are placed in front of your eyes.

To check the health of your eyes, you or your child may be given special eyedrops so the optometrist can see the back of your eye more clearly.

If you or your child needs glasses, you'll be given a prescription. You can take this to any optician.

NHS eye tests

NHS eye tests are free for some people, including:

  • children aged under 18, or under 19 and in full-time education
  • if you've been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
  • if you're on some benefits, including Income Support and Universal Credit

Find out more about free NHS eye tests

Treatments for short-sightedness

Short-sightedness can usually be treated with glasses or contact lenses.

These help your eyes focus correctly, so you can see distant objects more clearly.

Glasses are suitable for children and adults. Contact lenses are only suitable for adults and some children

An optician will advise you about the best option for your short-sightedness.

Laser eye surgery and lens surgery

Surgery can be used to improve sight in some adults.

There are 2 different types of surgery:

  • laser surgery to reshape the front of the eye
  • lens surgery to replace the lenses in your eyes with artificial lenses

This type of surgery is not available on the NHS and can be expensive.

Find out more about laser eye surgery and lens surgery

How to stop short-sightedness getting worse

It's not clear why short-sightedness happens and it's hard to prevent it.

But there are some things that can help stop it getting worse.

These include:

  • spending more time outdoors (especially children)
  • wearing bi-focal or multi-focal contact lenses

Some opticians may advise wearing a special lens overnight (orthokeratology). This can help you see better without glasses or contact lenses.

If you're worried about your or your child's eyesight getting worse, talk to an optician.

Complications of short-sightedness

Young children with untreated short-sightedness are more likely to get other conditions, such as:

  • a squint – where the eyes point in different directions
  • a lazy eye – where sight in 1 eye does not develop properly

Some adults with severe short sight-sightedness are more likely to develop:

  • glaucoma – increased pressure inside the eyes
  • detached retina – where the thin layer at the back of your eye (retina) becomes loose; this needs urgent treatment to prevent losing your sight
  • cataracts – cloudy patches inside the lens of the eye