Myopia, better known as nearsightedness, has grown to epidemic proportions in recent years, particularly among children and teenagers. Unfortunately, not enough parents take this condition seriously as they don’t recognize that the consequences can go beyond requiring glasses. Left untreated, myopia can lead to serious complications and eye health issues.


The prevalence of myopia is increasing year over year. In the United States, myopia has increased 66% in the past 30 years, and today 42% of people aged 12-54 are myopic. In some developed Asian countries, a staggering 80-90% of young adults are myopic.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure what causes myopia, or why it’s becoming increasingly common, but there are some strong theories. While a genetic predisposition does increase risk, so do lifestyle factors such as little time outdoors, not enough sunlight, spending too much time doing close-up work, and eating a high sugar or high carb diet.

What exactly is Myopia?

While you may be familiar with the term nearsighted, which means that far away objects appear blurry, most people don’t know that the distortion in vision is actually caused by the physical lengthening of the eyeball. As the myopia worsens, the eye grows longer in length.

When you look at something through a healthy eye, light is reflected off that object and into your cornea and lens at the front of your eye, which bend the light to focus on your retina at the back of your eye. But in a myopic eye, the stretch of the eye makes the focal point fall short, and as a result, only close objects appear crisply.

Possible Symptoms of Myopia

Think your child or teen might have myopia? Here are some common signs:

  • A hard time focusing on far-away objects
  • Difficulty reading the whiteboard at school, or reading music notes
  • Sitting unusually close to the computer or TV screen
  • Strained vision while driving, particularly when reading street signs
  • Holding books very closely while reading
  • Ball sports are challenging because the ball is hard to track visually
  • Sports games are hard to follow from the bleachers
  • Recognizing people on the street is a challenge until they’re only a few feet away
  • Regular headaches
  • A feeling of fuzziness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Complaints of “tired” eyes


Myopia Prevention

  • Get Regular Eye Exams: Blurred vision doesn’t necessarily mean you have myopia. There are countless factors that can cause blurred vision, many of which can indicate larger health issues, so it’s important to see your doctor at first signs. If your doctor does determine you have myopia, you can discuss options to help treat or slow it down.
  • Spend More Time Outdoors: Studies show that myopia does not progress as quickly in children who spend a lot of time outdoors. The most beneficial outdoor activities are those that require focusing on distant objects such as bike riding, playing catch, or other ball sports. The optimal time to spend outdoors is two hours per day, but any time is beneficial.
  • A Healthy Diet: There are no studies directly linking diet and myopia, however research shows that high carbohydrate and high sugar diets could potentially make myopia symptoms worse. Aim for meals high in vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and lean protein.

Why Treatment is Important

If you think glasses are the worst part of myopia (and that glasses aren’t so bad), you’re not alone, and that’s part of the problem. It is important to be aware of, and address, the symptoms of myopia as quickly as possible before they escalate.

Children who have trouble seeing words on a blackboard, looking at TV screens, or tracking moving objects in sports can lead to children having poor academic, athletic, or work performance due to eye strain.

In worse cases, myopia can develop into more advanced stages. The eye can continue to lengthen to the point of retinal detachment or other degenerative changes, including abnormal blood vessel growth, macular degeneration, glaucoma or cataracts.

If your doctor does determine you have myopia, you can discuss different options to help treat or slow it down.


Treatment Options


Low-dose Atropine drops can be prescribed to slow the progression of myopia in children and teens. A recent study on Atropine for the treatment of myopia showed that low-dose atropine drops can help reduce the growth of the eye by 50%, thereby slowing the progression of myopia. The drops may have side effects, so it’s a good idea to discuss candidacy in detail with your optometrist.


Ortho-k (Orthokeratology) is currently the most effective prescription lens solution for myopia correction and reduction, with multiple studies reporting effectiveness of 33-100%. It involves retainer lenses that are worn overnight to reshape the surface of the eyeball while sleeping to allow patients to go without glasses or contact lenses during the day. Research has shown that corneal reshaping can slow the progression of childhood myopia, making it a great alternative to glasses, or solution for those too young for LASIK. Book an appointment with your optometrist to find out if you’re a good candidate.


If your child is not an ideal candidate for Ortho-k, day-time multifocal contact lenses offer another prescription lens solution. If neither Ortho-k nor multifocal contact lenses are an option, myopic patients are encouraged to wear multifocal glasses.