Dictionary Definition

nearsightedness n : (ophthalmology) eyesight abnormality resulting from the eye's faulty refractive ability; distant objects appear blurred [syn: myopia, shortsightedness] [ant: hyperopia]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The property of being nearsighted, myopia.

Extensive Definition

Myopia (from Greek: μυωπία myopia "near-sightedness"), also called near- or short-sightedness, is a refractive defect of the eye in which collimated light produces image focus in front of the retina when accommodation is relaxed.
Those with myopia see nearby objects clearly but distant objects appear blurred. With myopia, the eyeball is too long, or the cornea is too steep, so images are focused in the vitreous inside the eye rather than on the retina at the back of the eye. The opposite defect of myopia is hyperopia or "farsightedness" or "long-sightedness" — this is where the cornea is too flat or the eye is too short.
Mainstream ophthalmologists and optometrists most commonly correct myopia through the use of corrective lenses, such as glasses or contact lenses. It may also be corrected by refractive surgery, such as LASIK. The corrective lenses have a negative optical power (i.e. are concave) which compensates for the excessive positive diopters of the myopic eye. In some cases, pinhole glasses are used by patients with low-level myopia. These work by reducing the blur circle formed on the retina.


Myopia has been classified in various manners.


Borish and Duke-Elder classified myopia by cause:
  • Refractive myopia is attributed to the condition of the refractive elements of the eye.
  • Index myopia is attributed to variation in the index of refraction of one or more of the ocular media.
  • Simple myopia is more common than other types of myopia and is characterized by an eye that is too long for its optical power (which is determined by the cornea and crystalline lens) or optically too powerful for its axial length. Both genetic and environmental factors, particularly significant amounts of near work, are thought to contribute to the development of simple myopia. Myopia with degenerative changes has been described as being very common in certain races and cultures, such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Arab, and Jewish people.
  • Nocturnal myopia, also known as night myopia or twilight myopia, is a condition in which the eye has a greater difficulty seeing in low illumination areas, even though its daytime vision is normal. Essentially, the eye's far point of an individual's focus varies with the level of light. Night myopia is believed to be caused by pupils dilating to let more light in, which adds aberrations resulting in becoming more nearsighted. A stronger prescription for myopic night drivers is often needed. Younger people are more likely to be affected by night myopia than the elderly.
  • Pseudomyopia is the blurring of distance vision brought about by spasm of the ciliary muscle.
  • Induced myopia, also known as acquired myopia, results from exposure to various pharmaceuticals, increases in glucose levels, nuclear sclerosis, or other anomalous conditions.
  • Index myopia is attributed to variation in the index of refraction of one or more of the ocular media.
  • Form deprivation myopia is a type of myopia that occurs when the eye is deprived of clear form vision. Myopia is often induced this way in various animal models to study the pathogenesis and mechanism of myopia development. Those with moderate amounts of myopia are more likely to have pigment dispersion syndrome or pigmentary glaucoma.
  • High myopia usually describes myopia of −6.00 or more. People with high myopia are more likely to have retinal detachments and primary open angle glaucoma. They are also more likely to experience floaters, shadow-like shapes which appear singly or in clusters in the field of vision. Roughly 30% of myopes have high myopia. This form of myopia is attributed to the use of the eyes for close work during the school years. The incidence of myopia within sampled population often varies with age, country, sex, race, ethnicity, occupation, environment, and other factors. Variability in testing and data collection methods makes comparisons of prevalence and progression difficult.
In some areas, such as Japan, Singapore and Taiwan, up to 44% of the adult population is myopic.
A recent study involving first-year undergraduate students in the United Kingdom found that 50% of British whites and 53.4% of British Asians were myopic.
In Australia, the overall prevalence of myopia (worse than −0.50 diopters) has been estimated to be 77%. In one recent study, less than 1 in 10 (8.4%) Australian children between the ages of 4 and 12 were found to have myopia greater than −0.50 diopters. A recent review found that 16.4% of Australians aged 40 or over have at least −1.00 diopters of myopia and 2.5% have at least −5.00 diopters.
In Brazil, a 2005 study estimated that 6.4% of Brazilians between the ages of 12 and 59 had −1.00 diopter or myopia or more, compared with 2.7% of the indigenous people in northwestern Brazil. Another found nearly 1 in 8 (13.3%) of the students in one city were myopic.
In Greece, the prevalence of myopia among 15 to 18 year old students was found to be 36.8%.
In India, the prevalence of myopia in the general population has been reported to be only 6.9%.
In the United States, the prevalence of myopia has been estimated at 20%. Approximately 25% of Americans between the ages of 12 and 54 have the condition. A recent review found that 25.4% of Americans aged 40 or over have at least −1.00 diopters of myopia and 4.5% have at least −5.00 diopters.
A study of Jordanian adults aged 17 to 40 found that over half (53.7%) were myopic.

Ethnicity and race

The prevalence of myopia has been reported as high as 70-90% in some Asian countries. 30-40% in Europe and the United States, and 10-20% in Africa.

Education, intelligence, and IQ

A number of studies have shown that the prevalence of myopia increases with level of education He stated that the shape of the eyeball responded instantaneously to the action of the extraocular muscles upon it and that myopia was produced due to contraction of the inferior oblique and superior oblique muscles which lengthened the eye. According to Bates, myopia was associated with a "strain" to see distance objects rather than near work. Bates theories were rejected by mainstream ophthalmologists of his time and remain so today.
In the mid-1900s, mainstream ophthalmologists and optometrists believed myopia to be primarily hereditary; the influence of near work in its development seemed "incidental" and the increased prevalence of the condition with increasing age was viewed as a "statistical curiosity".
Among mainstream researchers and eye care professionals, myopia is now thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.) and optical defocus. Form deprivation occurs when the image quality on the retina is reduced; optical defocus occurs when light focuses in front of or behind the retina. Numerous experiments with animals have shown that myopia can be artificially generated by inducing either of these conditions. In animal models wearing negative spectacle lenses, axial myopia has been shown to occur as the eye elongates to compensate for optical defocus.


  • Combination of genetic and environmental factors — In China, myopia is more common in those with higher education background and some studies suggest that near work may exacerbate a genetic predisposition to develop myopia. Other studies have shown that near work (reading, computer games) may not be associated with myopic progression, however. A "genetic susceptibility" to environmental factors has been postulated as one explanation for the varying degrees of myopia among individuals or populations, but there exists some difference of opinion as to whether it exists. High heritability simply means that most of the variation in a particular population at a particular time is due to genetic differences. If the environment changes — as, for example, it has by the introduction of televisions and computers — the incidence of myopia can change as a result, even though heritability remains high. From a slightly different point of view it could be concluded that — determined by heritage — some people are at a higher risk to develop myopia when exposed to modern environmental conditions with a lot of extensive near work like reading. In other words, it is often not the myopia itself which is inherited, but the reaction to specific environmental conditions — and this reaction can be the onset and the progression of myopia.
  • Genetic factors — The wide variability of the prevalence of myopia in different ethnic groups has been reported as additional evidence supporting the role of genetics in the development of myopia. Measures of the heritability of myopia have yielded figures as high as 89%, and recent research has identified genes that may be responsible: defective versions of the PAX6 gene seem to be associated with myopia in twin studies http://www.sciencenews.org/articles/20040710/fob1.asp. Under this theory, the eye is slightly elongated front to back as a result of faults during development, causing images to be focused in front of the retina rather than directly on it. It is usually discovered during the pre-teen years between eight and twelve years of age. It most often worsens gradually as the eye grows during adolescence and then levels off as a person reaches adulthood. Genetic factors can work in various biochemical ways to cause myopia, a weak or degraded connective tissue is a very essential one. Genetic factors include an inherited, increased susceptibility for environmental influences like excessive near work, and the fact that some people do not develop myopia in spite of very adverse conditions is a clear indication that heredity is involved somehow in any case.
  • Environmental factors — It has been suggested that a genetic susceptibility to myopia does not exist.
Near work and nightlight exposure in childhood have been hypothesized as environmental risk factors for myopia. Although one initial study indicated a strong association between myopia and nightlight exposure, recent research has found none.

Relevant research

  • A Turkish study found that accommodative convergence, rather than accommodation, may be a factor in the onset and progression of myopia in adults.
  • A recent Polish study revealed that "with-the-rule astigmatism" may lead to the creation of myopia.

Presbyopia and the 'payoff' for the nearsighted

Many people with myopia are able to read comfortably without eyeglasses even in advanced age. Myopes considering refractive surgery are advised that this may be a disadvantage after the age of 40 when the eyes become presbyopic and lose their ability to accommodate or change focus.


A diagnosis of myopia is typically confirmed during an eye examination by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Frequently an autorefractor or retinoscope is used to give an initial objective assessment of the refractive status of each eye, then a phoropter is used to subjectively refine the patient's eyeglass prescription.

Treatment, management, and prevention

Eyeglasses, contact lenses, and refractive surgery are the primary options to treat the visual symptoms of those with myopia. Orthokeratology is the practice of using special rigid contact lenses to flatten the cornea to reduce myopia.

Eye-exercises and biofeedback

Practitioners and advocates of alternative therapies often recommend eye exercises and relaxation techniques such as the Bates method. However, the efficacy of these practices is disputed by scientists and eye care practitioners. It was found in one study that myopes could improve their visual acuity with biofeedback training, but that this improvement was "instrument-specific" and did not generalise to other measures or situations. In another study an "improvement" in visual acuity was found but the authors concluded that this could be a result of subjects learning the task. Finally, in an evaluation of a training system designed to improve acuity, "no significant difference was found between the control and experimental subjects".


There is no universally accepted method of preventing myopia. A recent Malaysian study reported in New Scientist suggested that undercorrection of myopia caused more rapid progression of myopia, However, the reliability of this data has been called into question. Many myopia treatment studies suffer from any of a number of design drawbacks: small numbers, lack of adequate control group, failure to mask examiners from knowledge of treatments used, etc.
Pirenzepine eyedrops had a limited effect on retarding myopic progression in a recent, placebo-control, double-blinded prospective controlled study.

Myopia control

Various methods have been employed in an attempt to decrease the progression of myopia. Bifocal and progressive lenses have not shown significant differences in altering the progression of myopia.

Myopia as metaphor

The terms myopia and myopic (or the common terms short sightedness or short sighted) have also been used metaphorically to refer to cognitive thinking and decision making that is narrow sighted or lacking in concern for wider interests or longer-term consequences.
nearsightedness in Arabic: حسر البصر
nearsightedness in Catalan: Miopia
nearsightedness in Czech: Krátkozrakost
nearsightedness in Danish: Nærsynethed
nearsightedness in German: Kurzsichtigkeit
nearsightedness in Spanish: Miopía
nearsightedness in Esperanto: Miopio
nearsightedness in Basque: Miopia
nearsightedness in French: Myopie
nearsightedness in Croatian: Kratkovidnost
nearsightedness in Italian: Miopia
nearsightedness in Hebrew: קוצר ראייה
nearsightedness in Lithuanian: Trumparegystė
nearsightedness in Malay (macrolanguage): Miopia
nearsightedness in Dutch: Myopie
nearsightedness in Japanese: 近視
nearsightedness in Norwegian: Nærsynthet
nearsightedness in Polish: Krótkowzroczność
nearsightedness in Portuguese: Miopia
nearsightedness in Russian: Близорукость
nearsightedness in Slovak: Krátkozrakosť
nearsightedness in Slovenian: Kratkovidnost
nearsightedness in Finnish: Likinäköisyys
nearsightedness in Swedish: Närsynthet
nearsightedness in Vietnamese: Cận thị
nearsightedness in Turkish: Miyopi (göz kusuru)
nearsightedness in Ukrainian: Короткозорість
nearsightedness in Chinese: 近視

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

authoritarianism, bigotry, blind side, blind spot, blinders, blindness, closed mind, cramped ideas, dim-sightedness, fanaticism, hideboundness, illiberality, imperceptiveness, impercipience, incomprehension, insensibility, insularism, insularity, little-mindedness, littleness, mean mind, meanness, myopia, narrow sympathies, narrow views, narrow-mindedness, narrowness, nonunderstanding, odium theologicum, parochialism, pettiness, petty mind, provincialism, purblindness, short sight, shortsightedness, shut mind, smallness, straitlacedness, stuffiness, unapprehendingness, uncatholicity, undiscerningness, unperceptiveness
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