Can you see distant objects clearly but find yourself struggling to see nearby objects? For example, you may struggle to read a menu in a restaurant, but you can see films in the cinema quite clearly. If you relate to this, you may suffer from hyperopia.
Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is a common vision condition where distant objects are seen more clearly than close ones. This condition is often present at birth and runs in families. However, you can easily correct this condition with either glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery. Different degrees of farsightedness affect your ability to focus. Severe cases may mean you only see objects that are a great distance away, whereas a mild case may mean you can see closer objects.1
Most children are farsighted, but this is corrected as they grow and the eyes develop.1
Causes of hyperopia
Farsightedness is a result of your eyes not being able to focus properly. The two parts of the eye that focus images are:
- The cornea - the clear, dome-shaped outer layer of your eye
- The lens - a clear, curved structure behind the pupil
Farsightedness is usually caused by:
- The shape of your eye
- The shape of the cornea
- The lens becoming stiffer (usually due to ageing)
To see clearly, light rays travel through the cornea and the lens, which have a perfect bend that allows light to sharply focus an image on the retina at the back of the eye. The retina then sends this information to the brain to allow you to see.
If the lens or cornea is not smoothly curved, light rays are prevented from refracting correctly, which means you have a refractive error. This causes light rays to focus behind the retina instead of on the retina, which means distant objects appear clearer than nearby objects.1
Farsightedness is also caused by hereditary factors, which means it is genetic and can be passed on by your family. Other conditions, such as diabetes and eye cancer, can cause farsightedness, but this is rare.1
Nearsightedness (myopia) - a vision condition where nearby objects appear clearer than distant objects. This is caused by an eyeball that is longer than usual or the cornea is too steeply curved which causes light to focus in front of the retina.
Astigmatism - an imperfection of the curvature of the eye that causes blurry vision
Signs and symptoms of hyperopia
Signs and symptoms of hyperopia include:1
- Squinting to see clearly
- Nearby objects appear blurry
- Eye discomfort or headache after focusing on close work such as reading, writing, drawing, and computer work
- Seeing things more clearly when you move them further away from your eyes
Every case of farsightedness is different, as some people may not notice any symptoms, especially if they are young. Whereas other people may have blurry vision at any distance, near or far.
Management and treatment for hyperopia
Farsightedness is usually treated with glasses or contact lenses, which can help your eyes refocus correctly on the retina so you can see nearby objects.1
- Glasses - a simple way to sharpen vision with a variety of lenses such as single vision, bifocals, trifocals, and progressive multifocal
- Contact lenses - worn directly on the eyes and come in a variety of materials and designs
Most refractive surgeries are used to treat nearsightedness but they can also be used to treat mild to moderate farsightedness. Both laser and lens surgery are used to treat long-sightedness. The type of surgery you get depends on your eye health, age, budget, and lifestyle.1
Laser eye surgery uses a laser to reshape the cornea and the way your eye focuses. The three main types of laser surgery are LASIK, SMILE, and surface laser treatments
Lens surgery involves replacing the lens inside your eye with a plastic implant to correct your farsightedness.
Diagnosis of hyperopia
To diagnose you with hyperopia, your optometrist will need to do an eye test. This will involve you looking at lights or reading letters on an eye chart through different lenses that are placed in front of your eyes. For younger children or others who cannot read, an optometrist will use a retinoscope to measure the refractive error of the eye and diagnose hyperopia.
The optometrist may also shine a light into your eyes to check if the back of your eyes is in good health. If they need to get a clearer look, they may give you eye drops to dilate your pupils.
If left untreated, farsightedness can lead to further complications such as
- Lazy eye
- Crossed eyes
- Eye strain
- Reduced quality of life
Can hyperopia be prevented?
Farsightedness cannot be prevented as it is usually present at birth. However, you can protect your eyes and your vision by:
- Having your eyes checked regularly
- Protecting your eyes from the sun - wear sunglasses
- Controlling chronic health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which can affect your vision
- Eating a healthy diet - (e.g., foods that promote eye health)
- Preventing eye injuries
- Reduce eyestrain
- Use good lighting
How common is hyperopia?
Farsightedness is a common cause of reduced vision and affects 1 in 4 people in the UK.
Who is at risk of hyperopia?
Anyone can have hyperopia, but it usually affects people over 40.
When should I see a doctor?
You should see a doctor if:
- You have sudden blurred vision
- You have sudden loss of vision in one eye
- You see black spots or halos around lights
- Your vision is affecting the performance of your daily tasks
- You are at a high risk of certain eye diseases
- You have certain health conditions that affect your eyes
Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is a common vision condition caused by a refractive error of the eye where light rays are focused behind the retina instead of on the retina. This causes nearby objects to appear blurry, whereas distant objects are seen clearly. This is the result of the shape of your eye, cornea, or stiffness of the lens. Other eye conditions include nearsightedness (myopia) and astigmatism. Farsightedness is diagnosed by an optometrist by performing an eye exam, which involves reading letters through different lenses that are placed in front of your eye. Treatment options include glasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery. Refractive surgery includes laser eye surgery and lens surgery. If left untreated, farsightedness can lead to complications such as lazy eye, squint, and eye strain.
- Majumdar S, Tripathy K. Hyperopia. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 May 26]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560716/