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What is myopia?

Myopia (short sightedness) is a condition that causes distance objects to be blurred, while close objects are seen clearly.

Myopia can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or laser eye surgery in adults.

Approximately 1 in 3 people are myopic. Symptoms usually appear in older children or young adults.

What causes myopia?

Myopia is caused by the axial length (the length from the front to the back of the eyeball) being too long or the cornea (the curved front surface of the eye) being too curved.

Light enters our eyes from our surroundings and falls on the light sensitive layer at the back of our eyes called the retina. Cells in the retina turn the light into electrical signals and send these signals to the visual processing part of our brain.

In myopia, the light entering our eyes does not reach the retina, either because the eye is too long or the light is refracted (bent) at too steep an angle by the cornea. The light falls short of the retina and is now out of focus so objects are seen as blurry.

Imagine using a magnifying glass to look at something far away. Or using the near focus lens on a camera to take a picture of something far away.

Diagram of how normal eye sees and has a clear image

Normal eye showing a image

Diagram of myopia eye with a blurry image

Myopic eye showing a blurry image

When should my child wear their glasses?

If your child is prescribed glasses it is generally advisable that they wear their glasses all of the time, or as much as possible. Glasses can be taken off for bathing, swimming and bedtime.

Some people who are myopic also find it easier to read books without their glasses if their near vision is good.

Will my child’s eyes get worse?

As we grow, our eyes also grow. Because myopia is caused by the eye being too long or the cornea being too curved, myopia usually increases with age. This does not mean your child’s vision is “getting worse” or they are becoming too reliant on glasses. This is the natural growing process of the eye. As long as your child has regular eye exams, up to date glasses and good compliance at wearing their glasses, their vision should continue to develop normally.

There is currently research into the use of eye drops (atropine) to slow the progression of myopia although this is not yet widely available.

Where do I get my child’s glasses from?

If an optometrist diagnoses your child with myopia, they will issue you with a hospital eye service prescription (HESP). This is a prescription with the strength of glasses your child needs and a voucher to cover the cost of their glasses.

You can take this to any opticians you chose and exchange it for a pair of glasses. Your child’s glasses will be free. Your child’s glasses are covered for damage or loss for one year free of charge, unless you paid for any additional upgrades.

We suggest where possible, your child is involved in the choice of glasses and that you take a positive approach when ordering and collecting glasses in order to encourage them to wear them.

We also suggest you use an optician which is near to where you live as children can frequently break or lose their glasses.

Are there any other problems with my child’s eyes?

People with high myopia (generally described as -6 or higher) are at a higher risk of eye health problems, such as retinal tears or detachment.

If you have any other questions about your child’s eyes or vision, please ask your orthoptist who will be happy to advise you.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: EYE72

Resource Type: Article

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If you have any questions or would like any advise, feel free to contact the eye department on 0114 27 17468.


Western Bank
S10 2TH

United Kingdom

Switchboard: 0114 271 7000

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