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What is High Myopia? And why does it matter?

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Author: Jason Higginbotham
BSc (Hons) MCOptom Prof Cert Glau Prof Cert Med Ret Prof Cert LV FBDO MBCLA

What is High Myopia?

High myopia is essentially a severe level of shorted-sightedness, the term is usually used when an individual’s myopia has a refractive error of -6.00 dioptres or higher. Myopia usually starts to develop in childhood and is likely to progress to a high level as the child reaches late teens but can sometimes even continue to develop well into their twenties. Generally, the younger the age of a child when they first become to be short-sighted, the more their vision deteriorates and the higher the level of myopia they have as an adult. One recent study by Fromstein et al (2019) studied myopia progression in adults as old as 35.

In very many cases, heredity plays a role in the development of high myopia. Children of parents who are both myopic are at greater risk of developing myopia that will progressively get worse with time. A high level of myopia, in general, does not lead to vision loss however the higher the level of myopia the greater the risk is of developing several other eye-related conditions such as the risk of cataract, glaucoma, retinal detachment and myopic maculopathy (which is essentially a form of macular degeneration).

TL;DR Key Points
  • High myopia is severe short-sightedness, typically with a refractive error of -6.00 dioptres or higher.

  • Myopia usually starts in childhood and may progress to a high level during late teens or even into the twenties.

  • Early onset of myopia in childhood is associated with more significant vision deterioration and higher adult myopia levels.

  • Heredity plays a significant role in the development of high myopia.

  • While high myopia itself does not cause vision loss, it increases the risk of eye-related conditions.


There is a lot that can be done to slow the rate and amount of progression of myopia. The key is starting as early as possible, so take your child along to the optometrist or eye care specialist right away.

Should I be worried about my child's high myopia?

It would be easy to just say ‘Yes’ to this common question, but it’s important to add some greater context. It’s certainly true that high (axial) myopia increases your child’s risk of sight impairment in later life, even with their glasses or contact lenses. This is because of the potential damage caused by complications that are more likely in those people with high myopia, these vision threatening conditions can be seen in the table below.

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Modified from Global Myopia Symposium 2020 and other publications. 


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