Myopia & Astigmatism

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

The cornea and lens of the eye work together to properly focus visual images on the retina. If an image is out of focus, it is because the overall shape of the eye is incorrect or because the cornea does not have the proper curvature. When the eye is too big or the cornea is too steep, visual images are focused in front of the retina. This condition is called nearsightedness or myopia.

Myopia normally starts to appear between the ages of eight and twelve years old, and almost always before the age of twenty. Once myopia starts, as the body grows, the myopia often increases. It typically stabilizes in adulthood. Changes in glasses or contact lens prescriptions are necessary during growth periods.

Someone with myopia has an inability to see objects at the distance, such as street signs, chalk boards and television. Many times, myopia is diagnosed during school screenings.

The treatment for nearsightedness includes lenses which allow visual images to be focused on the retina. These lenses can be in the form of contact lenses or glasses. Once the eye has stabilized and myopia is no longer progressing, laser vision correction is an option for many.


In order for the eye to work properly, light coming into the eye must be properly focused on the retina (or the back of the eye). When the image is not focused, there is an irregularity in the eye. This irregularity can be the overall shape of the eye or the curvature of the cornea (the clear outer covering of the eye), or both. The cornea should be curved equally in all directions. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is curved more in one direction than another.

Astigmatism is quite common and, in the vast majority of cases, it is due simply to variations between people. Just as different people have different shaped feet or hands, people also have different shaped corneas. Rarely astigmatism is caused by lid swellings such as chalazia, and corneal scars, or by keratoconus (a rare condition in which the cornea becomes misshapen and pointed rather than smooth and rounded).

Astigmatism may cause blurred vision, eye strain or even headaches. It can also cause images to appear doubled, particularly at night. Small amounts of astigmatism can be ignored. But if any of its symptoms are present, astigmatism can be corrected by glasses or contact lenses. In most patients hard contact lenses do a better job of correcting for astigmatism than soft contact lenses.

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