The terms nearsighted and farsighted are often misunderstood. Myopia, or nearsightedness simply means that you can see more clearly at NEAR than at distance. It is a common vision problem and it is estimated to affect 1 out of every 3 or 4 Americans. People that are nearsighted have difficulty seeing at a distance; seeing road signs, a movie, or watching TV. They might squint or feel fatigued when driving or playing sports. Someone who is myopic, (nearsighted) is usually able to see well for up-close tasks such as reading or sewing. If you notice that your child is squinting when watching TV or has been sent to the school nurse or to the pediatrician because they can't see the board, chances are they are nearsighted.
If someone is just slightly nearsighted, then things at distance are not too blurry. If someone is very nearsighted, they might need to hold reading material and other things very closely, and things at distance are very blurry. Usually people that are very nearsighted have eyeglasses that are very thick at the edges.
If you find that you are squinting, having difficulty at distance seeing road signs or things at a distance are blurry even while wearing your glasses or contact lenses, you may need a change of prescription. When this occurs suddenly, as an adult, it can indicate Diabetes. When blurriness at distance occurs gradually, as an adult, it can indicate cataracts.
Myopia occurs when a blurred image reaches the back of the eye (retina). Nearsightedness can occur in family members and usually appears in childhood. Many doctors think that nearsightedness just "happens". Developmental Optometrists understand what brings on myopia and can treat it at its early stages. Most doctors simply compensating for it by prescribing higher and higher prescriptions as the person becomes more nearsighted. This vision problem may stabilize at a certain point, although sometimes it worsens with age.
Nearsightedness may be compensated with glasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery. The underlying root problem can often be addressed with Vision Therapy. Once someone has become nearsighted and it becomes embedded (becomes part of them) it is more difficult to "undo". Myopia can also be addressed with orthokeratology which gives freedom from wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses, without the risk or need for surgery.
Depending on the degree of your myopia, you may need to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses all the time, or only when you need sharper distance vision, like when driving, viewing a chalkboard or watching a movie. If your glasses or contact lens prescription begins with minus numbers, like -2.50, you are nearsighted.
Vision Therapy is a non-surgical means of addressing and reversing myopia / nearsightedness. Developmental and Behavioral Optometrists offer this service. Not all doctors know how to do this and thus not all doctors offer this as an option.
Orthokeratology is a non-surgical procedure where you wear special lenses that reshape the cornea while you sleep. When the lenses are removed, the cornea retains the new shape so you can see clearly without the lenses. The advantage is that you have daytime vision without contacts or glasses, and don't have the cost or risk associated with refractive surgical procedures. Orthokeartolgy addresses myopia in its earlier stages and is FDA approved for children and adults. LASIK and other refractive procedures can be done only for adults, and only when the myopia is stable.
Refractive surgery is yet another option for correcting myopia. This includes laser procedures such as LASIK and PRK, or non-laser options such as corneal inserts and implantable lenses. An advantage of the non-laser options, Vision Therapy and Orthokeratology, is that although they are intended to be permanent, they may be removed in case of a problem or change of prescription. The other advantage is that they can be done for children and adults, whereas LASIK can only be done when someone is an adult.