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Up Close with Nearsightedness

Vision problems can have confusing names. One pair – nearsightedness and farsightedness – have stumped many an eyecare beginner. While their names seem to suggest the opposite, people who are nearsighted can see things just fine close up – but struggle with far away. Meanwhile, those who are farsighted can probably see the football field from the nosebleed section perfectly well – but can’t see the newsprint in front of their face.

Confusing names aside, problems with visual acuity – seeing clearly – can be confusing, too. People who have had good vision their whole lives, only to suddenly start having problems, may not guess at first that an eyesight issue is to blame. Sometimes, unusual trouble in school, sports or with hobbies can give the first clue.

Denis Humphreys, O.D., an eye doctor in Sparks, Nev., remembers one such situation with a young patient. All of a sudden, the 16-year-old short stop couldn’t seem to catch the ball.

“He walked into my office one morning and explained that he couldn’t understand why he was making so many errors out there on the field. He said he was having some trouble seeing the ball,” Dr. Humphreys recalls. “I gave Matt an eye exam right away, and sure enough, it showed his level of vision to be about 20/60. So I wrote him a prescription for contact lenses.”

“In most cases, nearsightedness occurs when the surface of the eye (the cornea) is too steeply curved, so that light gets focused slightly in front of the retina,” says Dr. Humphreys, who also is VSP’s optometry director. 

Matt’s development of nearsightedness was probably inherited – visual acuity problems usually are. But unlike some inherited conditions, nearsightedness – also known as myopia – is a snap to correct.

Says the doctor, “Most of the time, all that’s required is a prescription for corrective lenses. And the benefits can be quite rewarding. I hear stories all the time about people whose job performance or schoolwork improved dramatically after they got their vision corrected.”

Source: VSP