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Myopia - Nearsightedness

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The American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) offers simple explanations for myopia (nearsightedness. Myopia (nearsightedness) means the eyes are out of focus more for distance than for near. If a child is very nearsighted, things will be blurry both at distance and at near. Some children are extremely myopic (nearsighted) at a young age. By age two or three, they will be sifting very close to the TV and holding objects up close to their face. These children usually take readily to glasses and like to wear them without much adjustment.

The most common form of nearsightedness, where vision is better at near than distance, does not begin until about age five to seven or sometimes later. Nearsightedness usually increases in amount every year as the child grows, with the greatest changes occurring between ages 6 and 12, but many continue to become more nearsighted as teenagers. In general, the earlier the nearsightedness begins, the more nearsighted the child will become.

If a child is only slightly nearsighted, it may be best to avoid glasses and obtain another eye exam in six to twelve months. Children who see clearly at near but require glasses for small amounts of nearsightedness should remove them for reading or other up activities. However, children who are significantly myopic will need glasses for most or all activities.

In the past, dilating eye drops, bifocals or hard contact lenses have been used to treat nearsightedness; today only refractive surgery, such as LASIK, is the only type of therapy available to actually eliminate nearsightedness. These types of surgery are generally not done in children because their eyes have not yet finished growing. The eye normally stops growing by about 18 to 21 years of age. A few children have undergone these procedures, but most children's nearsightedness is best treated with glasses or contact lenses.

For more information, visit the AAPOS website at http://med-aapos.bu.edu.

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