The technical term is Myopia. Being myopic means that you can see nearby objects clearly, but anything further away seems blurred.
What’s happening in your eye that makes everything so blurry?
Put simply, your eye is either too long, or your cornea is too curved (relative to the length of your eye). As a result, when light rays enter your eye, they’re bent too much - first by the cornea which acts as an outer lens and then by the actual lens inside your eye. The rays come into focus before they reach the retina - the part of your eye which acts like a projection screen at the back of the structure.
Therefore, instead of bringing images into one single focal point (like the bottom of a V shape) onto the screen, the rays cross (like an X) in front of it. This means they are split and diverging by the time they reach your retina.
So that’s what causes your blurred vision. The more powerfully your eye bends the light, the more short-sighted (myopic) you are. By contrast, the less your eye bends light, the more long-sighted (hyperopic) you become.
By the way, myopia is Greek for squinting. When you squint, you reduce the size of the pupil (the black hole in the coloured part of the eye). This extends the depth of focus - temporarily correcting short-sightedness. If you know how a camera obscura works, it’s a bit like that. This explains why squinting acts as a short-term way to see a bit better - though not for long - but remember: it’s never a particularly good look!
The causes and management of myopia
How does one become short sighted in the first place?
No one knows the full answer, but it’s clear that myopia runs in the family, so you may inherit short sightedness from a parent or grandparent. It tends to surface at an early age (around 10 years or even younger), then increases for a few years before stabilising at around 20. A second phase may follow in your mid to late 20s, especially if you spend a lot of time studying.
If you are a parent, encourage your children to put down their gaming devices or smartphones and spend at least two hours a day outside. Evidence suggests this can delay or minimise the onset of myopia. Playing outside isn’t just good for the soul: it really does help keep those precious eyes happy and healthy!
The remedy for short sightedness
Here’s the good news. If you are diagnosed with myopia, there’s a contact lens choice out there which can correct pretty well any form of short sightedness.
Lenses like TOTAL1TM are so comfortable and oxygen-permeable, you’ll barely ever notice them (9 out of 10 wearers say that theses lenses feel like nothing^). Wear them for a day, then replace them with fresh ones the next day.
Alternatively, you might prefer Alcon’s AIR OPTIX® COLORS lenses. In addition to correcting vision, they come with the option of changing your eye colour and look, adding a fashion statement. This option is also available for anyone not needing vision correction but wanting to play with their eye colour.
Anyone aged around 45 or older can also wear multifocal lenses which overcome the loss of eye lens elasticity (presbyopia) - once again enjoying clear vision at all distances. It’s quite possible to have myopia and presbyopia at the same time. Fortunately, this is nothing to worry about: there are multifocal lenses out there to put things right.
There are even ‘toric’ contact lenses, which correct astigmatism. If you’re astigmatic, light entering your eye focuses in more than one place on the retina. Applying a toric lens deals with this, refocusing all the light rays into a single point.
A lens for everyone
Your optometrist can reveal this new world of options and opportunities, each designed to fit the type and extent of myopia you have. In short, there’s a contact lens way forward, whatever your age or need.
As long as you are comfortable applying and removing lenses to and from your eyes - or having someone else do it - there’s no lower or upper age limit for wearing contact lenses. Even some infants wear lenses (for medical reasons). Lots of kids love them, saying they’ve transformed their lives as teenagers, but senior citizens are equally enthusiastic. Whether you are slightly or substantially myopic, hyperopic, astigmatic or have a combination of conditions, it’s good to know that contact lenses can do the same great job for you - day in, day out.
Making sense of myopia
Your optometrist may show you a number with a minus sign in front of it. The minus indicates that you are short sighted, which means your lens will be thick at the edge of the central zone and thin in the centre (the reverse applies if you are long-sighted). To ensure comfortable wear, the edges of the lenses are always thin.
The number after the minus refers to the power of the lens and hence your degree of short sightedness, measured in diopters (D or dpt). A reading of -0.75 D, for example, indicates that you only have a slight lack of focus, whilst -8.25 D would show that you are short-sighted to a much higher degree, making you more dependent on your vision correction.
So let’s sum this up. Whoever you are, whatever your eye condition, and whatever your age, there is a soft or hard, daily or monthly contact lens to correct your short-sightedness. That brings a wonderfully welcome alternative to glasses or laser eye surgery into your life, with a solution literally at the end of your fingertips!
*Based on wearers agreeing with the statement, “while wearing my lenses, I sometimes forget I have them on”.
1. Myopia Management Guidelines – Infographic. https://www.myopiaprofile.com/management-in-practice Accessed: 10/03/2021
2. Perez-Gomez I, Giles T. European survey of contact lens wearers and eye care professionals on satisfaction with a new water gradient daily disposable contact lens. Clinical Optometry. 2014;6:17–23. Sponsored by Alcon.