How Myopia Is Treated

Myopia—also known as nearsightedness—is a vision condition in which people have difficulty seeing things from a distance. Though there are several ways to treat myopia, none of them actually reverse a person's vision changes.

The city center of Madrid as seen from some myopia glasses.

MarioGuti / Getty Images

Corrective Lenses

When someone isn't able to see things clearly from a distance, corrective lenses—like eyeglasses and contact lenses—can help.

Both types of corrective lenses change where light hits the retina, then bends the light to focus it on the retina. When that happens, blurry images become clear ones. In most cases, deciding between eyeglasses and contact lenses comes down to personal preference, because neither option is perfect.

For example, some people find contact lenses to be comfortable (not even realizing that they're in), while others try countless varieties over the years but still end up with irritation and therefore prefer glasses.

Contact lenses require more effort and supplies but allow the user to wear any pair of off-the-rack sunglasses (with adequate UV protection, of course) instead of having to spring for prescription sunglasses. Ultimately, it comes down to an individual's own experience—and, of course, any input from their doctor if one type of corrective lenses would be better for them than the other.

Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses are the most common choice to correct vision and work by adding or subtracting focusing power to the eye's cornea and lens. An appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist is required in order to get a myopia diagnosis. After conducting a series of vision tests, the doctor will provide the patient with their prescription so they're able to get glasses or contacts.

There is no "magic number" when it comes to someone's vision or prescription that signals they should start wearing glasses. That decision is usually made out of necessity—like if a child can't read the blackboard at school or an adult can't see the TV or read road signs when driving—as well as with input from the eye doctor.

Glasses While Driving

Each state has its own regulations regarding when someone has to wear some form of corrective lenses while driving. This is typically determined by a vision test administered by the local DMV.

There also isn't a definitive prescription or level of vision that dictates whether a person needs to wear eyeglasses all the time or only for certain activities that require seeing things from a distance.

What Are Bifocals and Multifocals?

The difference between bifocals and multifocals:

  • Bifocals: Additional lenses in glasses that accommodate a second prescription
  • Multifocals: Another way of referring to progressive lenses. Instead of having two (or three) distinct lenses, multifocals gradually switch to a different prescription between the top and bottom of the lens.

Contact Lenses

There are two types of contact lenses: hard and soft.

Approximately 90% of people who wear contacts wear soft, water-absorbing lenses. The other 10% wear rigid, gas-permeable lenses.

A prescription for contact lenses includes more information than one for eyeglasses: namely, measurements of the curvature of a patient's eye. If this is someone's first time getting contact lenses, they typically do an in-office fitting with their doctor, and they may do a trial period with a particular brand of contacts before committing to a specific type.

Laser Procedures

Instead of eyeglasses or contact lenses, some people opt to improve their vision by having a laser procedure—the most common being LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis) and PRK (photorefractive keratectomy).

Both procedures use a laser to reshape a person's cornea, to allow light to focus properly on the retina. Even though LASIK and PRK permanently reshape a person's cornea, that does not mean that any improvements to their vision will be permanent too. Just as people may need a stronger prescription for eyeglasses as they age, the same is possible after having a laser procedure.

And as with any procedure involving your eyes, there are risks involved—though they are minimal. Despite the potential risks and the fact that it's not permanent, many people opt for laser procedures because they provide a longer-term solution for vision correction and they don't have to deal with glasses or contacts—at least for a while.

Surgery

People who are highly nearsighted and can’t undergo a laser procedure may opt for a different type of refractive surgery, including one of the following:

  • Conductive keratoplasty (CK): Similar to LASIK but uses controlled amounts of radio frequency (RF) energy, instead of a laser
  • Phakic intraocular lenses: A surgically implanted contact lens
  • Refractive lens exchange (RLE): Also referred to as clear lens extraction (CLE). In this procedure, an artificial lens is used to replace the eye's natural lens in order to improve vision.

Like any of the treatments here, there are also pros and cons to these types of surgeries, including the usual risks. But a major pro is that they provide a surgical option for those who aren't able to get a laser procedure.

Refractive Therapy

Orthokeratology—also known as ortho-k or corneal refractive therapy (CRT)—is a non-surgical procedure that is kind of like orthotics for the eye.

It involves the use of specially designed and fitted contact lenses to temporarily reshape the cornea to improve vision. The lenses are typically worn at night while asleep.

Vision Therapy 

People who suffer from muscle spasms that keep the eye from focusing may hear about exercises they can do to help them recover, known as vision therapy. However, there is no empirical evidence that exercising eye muscles can improve nearsightedness at all.

Spending Time Outside May Protect a Child's Vision

A review of the literature on data examining the association between time spent outdoors and prevalent myopia, incident myopia, and myopic progression indicated that spending more time outdoors may be a way to reduce the risk of developing myopia and its progression in children and adolescents.

Atropine Eye Drops

Eye drops containing atropine—an involuntary nervous system blocker—have been widely studied as a possible treatment for childhood myopia. Though it's not yet fully understood how atropine works in the eye, research has shown that it is effective.

A Word From Verywell 

If you or your child notice a change in your vision, make sure to visit your doctor and get an eye examination. Letting myopia go uncorrected can make it progress more quickly, leaving you with even worse vision. Plus, it's nice to be able to see things.

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Article Sources
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  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Driving restrictions per state. Updated June 6, 2020.

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  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Alternative refractive surgery procedures. Updated September 27, 2017.

  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What is orthokeratology? Updated September 13, 2018.

  7. Harvard Health. The lowdown on eye exercises. Updated May 6, 2020.

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