About short-sightedness or myopia

If you're short-sighted, distant objects look blurry.

Short-sightedness typically starts in the pre-teen years. It tends to get worse as children move into the teen years and young adulthood.

Short-sightedness can run in families.

Short-sightedness is also called myopia and near-sightedness.

Causes of short-sightedness or myopia

Short-sightedness happens because light entering the eye focuses in front of the retina instead of on the retina. This is usually because the eyeball is longer than usual.

Symptoms of short-sightedness or myopia

If your child is short-sighted, she might say that far-away objects seem blurry, whereas close-up objects are clearer. She might need to squint or partially close her eyes to see distant objects clearly.

You might notice that your child always sits very close to the television, or holds books very close to his eyes while reading. If he sits at the back of the classroom, he might say it's hard for him to read things at the front of the room.

Does your child need to see a doctor about short-sightedness?

Yes. If you think your child is short-sighted, see your GP for a referral to an ophthalmologist. You can also see an optometrist.

Some states and territories run free vision screening programs through preschools or local child and family health services. These programs use special tests to check your child for vision problems at 3-4 years, before she starts school. Check with your child and family health nurse or preschool to see what's offered in your state or territory.

If a screening test picks up a problem with your child's vision, the people running the screening program will let you know what to do next.

If your child is having learning difficulties, it's a good idea to have his vision checked by your GP or optometrist.

Treatment for short-sightedness or myopia

Children with short-sightedness might need to wear glasses. Teenagers might prefer to wear contact lenses for some activities. An optometrist can prescribe glasses or contact lenses after giving your child a thorough eye test.

Your child will need to have her eyes and her glasses checked every year. This is because vision tends to change, and short-sightedness can get worse as your child gets older.

Spending time outdoors each day can reduce the risk of your child's short-sightedness getting worse.

If your child's short-sightedness gets worse rapidly, it's worth asking your eye specialist about interventions that can slow down the process.

Laser therapy isn't used on young people because their eyes haven't yet fully developed.

Prevention of short-sightedness or myopia

Spending time outdoors can lower children's chances of being short-sighted.