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What is myopia?

Myopia is the inability to see things clearly unless they're relatively close to your eyes. Also called nearsightedness or shortsightedness, myopia is the most common refractive error among children and young adults.

Myopia occurs when the eye grows too long from front to back, causing light to come to a focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it. Other contributing factors include a cornea that is too curved for the length of the eyeball or a lens inside the eye that is too thick.

Distant objects and your driving vision will be blurry if you have myopia, but you still will be able to see nearby objects clearly. This is why the condition is also called "near-sightedness."

Myopia typically starts to develop during childhood and can progress gradually or rapidly. The most common symptoms of myopia are squinting, eye strain, headaches and fatigue.

Nearsightedness is the most common vision problem. Currently, about 1.5 billion people worldwide (nearly a quarter of the global population) are nearsighted. Myopia is especially prevalent in East Asia, where 70 to 80 percent of the residents of some countries are affected.

And the rate of myopia worldwide is increasing rapidly. It's estimated that by the year 2050, roughly half of the world population will be nearsighted.

Researchers aren't sure why myopia is becoming so common, but many eye doctors attribute it to eye fatigue from close-up work including reading, studying, using computers and portable electronic devices (including tablets and smartphones) and reduced time spent outdoors.

Myopia also tends to run in families. Researchers have discovered at least 24 genetic risk factors for myopia.

Myopia can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses, which refocus light on the retina. Once nearsighted children become young adults and their vision stabilizes, myopia can be permanently treated with refractive surgery. LASIK is the most popular surgical procedure to correct nearsightedness.

If you or your children experience the signs or symptoms of myopia, schedule a comprehensive eye examination with an eye doctor near you.

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