The Basics of Nearsightedness

Nearsightedness, or myopia, is an eye problem that causes objects at a distance to be blurry. A nearsighted person can clearly see objects that are close to them but has a hard time focusing on objects that are far away.

Point of view looking through a pair of eye glasses looking at a city skyline
Mario Gutiérrez / Getty Images

Signs and Symptoms

Someone with nearsightedness may squint noticeably when trying to view distant objects. They may also sit very close to the television or bring books very close to their eyes when reading. Sometimes nearsightedness causes people to be totally unaware of far-away objects.


Nearsightedness occurs when the eyeball is slightly longer than normal, or when the cornea is steeper than average. These conditions cause light to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on its surface. In most cases, nearsightedness is inherited. However, there is some evidence that suggests intense close-up activities, such as reading for prolonged periods of time at close range or playing video games for many hours, in early adulthood can induce nearsightedness. Although doctors often see this in clinical practice, research is still split on this as a cause of nearsightedness. In some countries, the general population is so nearsighted that it is considered a public health crisis or epidemic.


Nearsightedness is usually detected during childhood, between the ages of 10 and 20. It is often discovered when a child complains of not being able to see the chalkboard. The condition often continues to get worse but stabilizes in the mid- to late-twenties. Nearsightedness is diagnosed by a comprehensive eye examination completed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. A refraction test, performed during the examination, confirms the diagnosis of myopia. In some cases, a cycloplegic refraction will be performed. A cycloplegic refraction may be important because younger people tend to test as slightly more nearsighted than they actually are. Some individuals over-focus or have accommodative spasm when tested.


Depending on the degree of nearsightedness, some people may only need glasses for driving or watching a movie. Others with a high degree of nearsightedness may only have clear vision a few inches from their nose. Nearsightedness can be treated with glasses, contact lenses, or with laser procedures, such as LASIK. In some cases, myopia may also be treated with a corneal-reshaping procedure, although results are usually temporary in nature.

Cause for Concern

Nearsightedness may simply reduce your quality of life or cause eyestrain. In other cases, it may raise safety issues in the workplace and increase your risk of certain eye diseases, such as glaucoma or retinal detachment. The more nearsighted an individual is, the higher the risk of having a retinal tear or detachment. 

A Word From Verywell

Because nearsightedness or myopia is on the rise in the United States and many other countries, parents are often interested in ways to reduce their children's risk of developing nearsightedness or becoming more nearsighted. A meta-analysis published in 2012 suggests that for each additional hour children spend outdoors per week, their risk of developing nearsightedness drops by 2%. Furthermore, a nearsighted child in one of the studies analyzed spent an average of almost 4 hours fewer hours per week outdoors than children with 20-20 or farsighted vision. The study attempted to find out if children who spent more time outdoors also spent less time playing computer games, or in intense near reading or study. However, no relationship was found.

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  1. Xiong S, Sankaridurg P, Naduvilath T, et al. Time spent in outdoor activities in relation to myopia prevention and control: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Acta Ophthalmol. 2017;95(6):551-566. doi:10.1111/aos.13403

  2. Sherwin JC, Reacher MH, Keogh RH, Khawaja AP, Mackey DA, Foster PJ. The association between time spent outdoors and myopia in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ophthalmology. 2012;119(10):2141-2151. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2012.04.020