Nearsightedness (Myopia)

A person who is nearsighted has difficulty seeing objects in the distance, although he or she can see close objects well. Nearsightedness is also called myopia.

In some cases, nearsightedness is an inherited condition caused by an abnormally long eye, as measured from front to back. Because there is a longer distance between the cornea (the clear "window" that covers the front of the eye) and the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye), images tend to focus in front of the retina, rather than on the retina itself.


  • Photorefractive keratotomy (PRK) — A laser beam is used to remove tissue from the outer surface of the cornea. This reshapes the cornea and improves the eye's focus.
  • Radial keratotomy (RK) — After the eye is numbed (anesthetized), tiny cuts are made in the edges of the cornea. This causes the central portion of the cornea to flatten, improving the eye's focus.
  • Placing an artificial lens inside the eye — A lens to correct the myopia can be placed inside the eye in front of the normal lens. This is usually reserved for cases of extremely high myopia. Such cases are not as easily treated by corneal surgery.


LASIK and PRK surgery have almost completely replaced radial keratotomy. People choose LASIK more than PRK because it offers excellent results, is a fast procedure, and recovery is painless.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several types of lasers for the surgical treatment of nearsightedness, not every nearsighted person is a good candidate for this treatment. In general, laser procedures are not done on people who are under age 21 because their eyes have not finished growing.

When To Call a Professional

Make an appointment to see your primary care doctor or an ophthalmologist (a doctor who specializes in eye problems) if your vision blurs when you look at distant objects. In particular, call your doctor if blurry vision interferes with your job, school work or ability to drive safely.

Call your pediatrician if your child complains about blurry vision, has difficulty seeing the chalkboard at school, squints while looking at distant objects or complains of frequent headaches. Always make sure that the doctor checks your child's eyes at every routine physical examination or well-baby visit. More formalized visual testing should be done between ages 3 and 4, and then again at the start of school.


Eyeglasses and contact lenses can correct most cases of nearsightedness.

The long-term effects of laser eye surgery are still being evaluated. Many patients report that they are very satisfied with laser eye surgery. More than 100,000 laser eye procedures are done successfully each year in the United States. However, as with other forms of surgery, you should understand the risks and benefits before having the procedure.