Answers by Mitchell Gossman, MD, an ophthalmologist at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota, located in St. Cloud
What is near-sightedness?
To those in the eyecare field, including ophthalmologists, optometrists, ophthalmic technicians, and opticians, the question “what is near-sightedness” is easy, but to the general public it can be difficult to understand. The medical term for this is “myopia.” I won’t attempt to explain the physics of it (the field of optics), but will explain the practical aspects.
Right off the bat, the name can be confusing. “Near sighted” -- what does mean, anyway? Does that mean I need to wear glasses to read? Do I need glasses to see far? If I need glasses to see far, why do they call it “near-sighted”? The name indicates that the patient who is not wearing corrective lens (glasses and contacts), is able to see at near without glasses. It also means that the vision in the distance is blurry so glasses must be worn to see far. It can also be corrected with LASIK and cataract surgery.
Is being near-sighted a bad thing? Not necessarily. Then why do people pay thousands of dollars to eliminate it and not have to wear glasses?
Someone who is near-sighted can’t see far, and must wear glasses or contacts to see in the distance. Most people value their distance vision more than near vision, so for that reason they often want to eliminate the need to wear glasses. Most people spend most of their time looking at the road, television, sporting events, participating in sports, the list goes on. Most people would rather not have to wear glasses for these activities.
Near-sightedness can be a friend, though. A person over 45 years has trouble reading up close without glasses, but if they’re near-sighted, they have the ability to remove the glasses to read. Some people spend quite a lot of their time with near activities, particularly as they get older. Things like reading of course, also sewing, using tablets and phones, wood carving, etc. The older patient who needs glasses to read must put on reading glasses or bifocals to do these activities, but the reading zone in glasses may be fairly small, so when one is near-sighted, taking glasses off can provide better quality near vision and a larger area of clear vision.
Near-sightedness comes in a wide range of severity which we measure by determining at what distance the vision becomes blurry. Some have a wee bit of near-sightedness and can still drive legally without glasses, but with a small near-sighted correction they can see even better. Some are so near-sighted they can’t see beyond a few inches. Extremely high near-sightedness at that level is not very useful, aside from being able to see the details in a gemstone, collectible stamp, or a sliver in a finger, to name a few, so most people who are near-sighted to this degree are more than willing to eliminate their near-sightedness.
Remember that if you’re near-sighted and are planning on LASIK surgery or cataract surgery, you will likely gain better distance vision, but your near vision without glasses will not be as good as it was before and eventually you’ll need glasses to read, unless special lens implants or other treatments are done to keep some usable near vision without glasses.
Find out more
Dr. Mitchell Gossman is a comprehensive ophthalmologist at Eye Associates of Central Minnesota. The office is located at 628 Roosevelt Road, Suite 101, in St. Cloud. To make an appointment or to learn more, call 320-774-3789 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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