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What Causes Nearsightedness?

By Lan Pham, Manjari Bansal
Not able to see distant objects clearly? You may have nearsightedness. Learn from the experts about the causes of nearsightedness.

If you have difficulty doing things like reading a clock from across the room or the seeing text on a distant billboard, you might have a vision problem called nearsightedness, or myopia. Nearsightedness is a common refractive error that causes you to see close objects clearly, while distant objects appear blurry. Keep reading to learn more about nearsightedness and its causes.

What Is Nearsightedness?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, nearsightedness is a refractive error that causes the eye to bend, or refract, light improperly onto the retina. Since the eye does not focus light correctly, images are not clear. As a result, distant objects appear blurry.

Joshua Mali, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist and vitreoretinal surgeon at The Eye Associates in Florida, tells WebMD Connect to Care that nearsightedness may cause the following symptoms:

  • Inability to see far away objects
  • Eyestrain (tired and sore eyes)
  • Squinting to bring things into focus
  • Headaches

“Common complaints reported by patients with myopia include the inability to clearly see the board in the classroom, a TV across the room, a clock on the wall, or road signs from a distance," according to Mali. "The spectrum of symptoms is directly related to the degree of myopia,” Mali adds.

What Causes It?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the eye focuses entering light onto its retina in order to produce clear vision. If there is any problem with the shape of the eye, cornea, or lens, the eye will not focus light correctly on the retina.

There are a few factors that may predispose you to developing myopia. However, “the main cause of myopia is related to the anatomy of the eye,” Yasmin Mali, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist and faculty at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Florida, tells WebMD Connect to Care. According to Mali, the two major anatomical features that cause myopia are:

  • An excessively long eye shape, or
  • An excessively steep cornea 

Mali adds that the above conditions can also occur simultaneously and produce myopia. “These structural changes in the eye cause the light to bend in front of the retina instead of on the retina. Therefore, the image sent to the brain is blurred and not in focus,” Mali explains.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, if a parent has myopia, then their child may inherit it, as myopia tends to run in families. Myopia is usually spotted in children between the ages of eight and 12. The condition may worsen in teenagers due to rapid growth of the body.

“There is some evidence to suggest that lots of video games and intense close work may increase nearsightedness, but since myopia is not a disease but just a measure of the curvature of the eye, it is just something a person is born with, and there are no possible risk factors,” Yuna Rapoport, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Manhattan Eye in New York, tells WebMD Connect to Care.

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