Short-sightedness (myopia)

Short-sightedness (also known as ‘myopia’) is a common eye condition that makes objects further away appear blurry, while objects close by remain clear.

Many people use glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision. However, increasing numbers of people are now also choosing to have laser or surgical treatments to improve their vision.

What is short-sightedness?

Short-sightedness occurs when light is not able to focus correctly on the back of the inner eye (retina) eyes. Instead, light is focused slight in front of the retina, causing distant objects to appear blurry.

There are different levels of short-sightedness, ranging from mild to severe. Mild cases may not require any correction while severe cases will require vision correction treatment.  

Signs you may be short-sighted include:

  • Needing to sit closer to the TV,
  • Finding objects at a distance harder to see and blurry,
  • Frequently having tired eyes.

The most common ways of correcting short-sightedness are glasses or contact lenses.

  • Glasses: wearing glasses with a lens made to your prescription can compensate for your short-sightedness, helping distant objects appear sharp and focussed.
  • Contact lenses: similar to glasses, prescription contact lenses correct short-sightedness so that distant objects are sharp and in focus.

Should glasses or contact lenses not be appropriate, or desirable, laser eye surgery can help to correct short-sightedness and remove (or reduce) the need to wear glasses or contact lenses.

A laser is a high-energy beam of light. When directed towards the eye, it can be used to make small, precise cuts (incisions) in specific parts of the eye structure in order to improve vision. The three most common types of laser eye surgery are:

  • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK),
  • Laser in situ keratectomy (LASIK),
  • Laser epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK),

Alternatively, lens implant surgery can be used to correct short-sightedness. There are two main types of lens implant available:

  • Phakic intraocular lens (PIOL) implantation: a surgical procedure to correct vision by placing an artificial lens into your eye without removing the natural lens. PIOL implantation is a more permanent solution than wearing contact lenses, although the way it corrects vision is similar.
  • Refractive lens exchange (RLE) surgery: a surgical procedure to correct vision by removing the natural lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. RLE surgery is the same as cataract surgery, although RLE surgery is carried out to reduce or remove the need for glasses or contact lenses instead of to treat cataracts.

Before your lens implant surgery, whether PIOL or RLE, you will be given an eye drop to enlarge your pupils.

You will also be given an anaesthetic eye drop to numb your eye, which will help to stop you feeling pain during the procedure.

If you are feeling nervous, you may also be given an injection of a relaxant into your hand or arm to help you remain calm.

Once the anaesthetic has been administered, your surgeon will make a small incision in the surface of your eye and carry out the surgery on your lens. 

The surgeon will be looking at your eye through a microscope while performing the procedure.

Once the procedure has been completed, your eye will be thoroughly washed with sterile water and antibiotics, to rinse out the gel used for the procedure and to promote healing and reduce the risk of infection.  

Both RLE and PIOL surgery are fairly short procedures, taking around 20 minutes per eye. You will be able to return home the same day as your surgery and can wash and shower as normal. Your surgeon will tell you when you can start driving again, and this will normally be a few days after surgery.  

You will be given some eyedrops to administer for a period of time after surgery. It is important you use these as advised by your consultant, as they have antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce the risk of pain and infection.

You will have scheduled follow-up appointments to assess your recovery and healing, and these will be explained to you by your consultant at St Joseph’s.

Recovering from RLE surgery or PIOL implantation may take some time, but if you have any queries or concerns at any stage of your recovery, you can contact the ophthalmology team at any time for expert advice.

Any surgical procedure carries risks and the potential for complications, including:

  • Infection,
  • Pain,
  • Reaction to the anaesthetic,
  • Formation of blood clots.

Complications and risks specific to RLE and PIOL surgery include:

  • Discomfort in the eye,
  • Increased glare from car headlights, most noticeable when driving at night,
  • Red blotches on the white of your eye. These are a common occurrence after any eye surgery and may take up to 6 weeks to clear.
  • You may develop cataracts (cloudy lenses) at a younger age than normal.

 The above risks are intended as guidelines only and are not exhaustive.

We always recommend that you talk with your consultant about potential risks and complications before you decide to have any surgery.

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