What is Farsightedness (Hyperopia)?
Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, is a common refractive error. It makes it difficult to see close-up objects clearly.
Some farsighted people have eyeballs that are too short from front to back. Doctors call this measurement the axial length (AL). Others may have a cornea with too little curvature or an abnormal shape.
These abnormalities make light rays entering the eye focus behind the retina instead of directly on its surface. Distant objects appear more clearly, while close objects appear blurry.1
Farsightedness is a complex condition. However, it’s usually genetic and often runs in families. It can affect people of all ages but is most common in children and adults over age 40. Many people with mild farsightedness don’t have symptoms or require treatment.
Symptoms of Farsightedness
People with farsightedness often have difficulty reading up close. They may experience eyestrain, headaches, and fatigue after prolonged periods of near work. This is because the eyes work harder than they should to see clearly.2
People with farsightedness may also have trouble seeing objects in low light or at night. Children with farsightedness often squint or rub their eyes when doing close work such as reading or homework.
What Causes Farsightedness?
Farsightedness runs in families. If someone is farsighted, usually one or both of their parents are, too. Multiple genetic variations likely contribute to the condition, each with a small effect. Some of these genes may play a role in the development of the eyes.3
There are also environmental factors that can contribute to the likelihood of developing farsightedness, but this is not well understood.
Farsightedness isn’t usually part of an overarching genetic syndrome. But doctors associate some genetic conditions with hyperopia, including:
- Leber congenital amaurosis
- X-linked juvenile retinoschisis
- Senior-Løken syndrome
- Gorlin-Chaudhry-Moss syndrome
- Down syndrome
- Fragile X syndrome
When to See an Eye Doctor for Farsightedness
If you’re having any issues with your eyes or sight, schedule an appointment with an eye care professional.
Some symptoms of farsightedness are also signs of other vision problems or serious health conditions, including:1
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Presbyopia, an age-related loss of focusing ability
- Tumors affecting the back of the eye
- Papilledema, the swelling of the optic nerve
Getting a comprehensive, dilated eye exam is important to rule out these other possibilities.
An eye care professional can diagnose farsightedness during a comprehensive eye exam, which includes:
- Visual acuity test. This eye exam assesses how well someone can see at various distances.
- Visual field test. This test identifies blind spots and peripheral vision issues.
- Glaucoma test. Also called tonometry, this test measures eye pressure.
- Retinoscopy. This test assesses the way light reflects off the retina. It’s often used in children to determine their eyeglass prescription.
- Refraction. This is a measurement of how light bends or refracts as it passes through the eye. It’s done using a machine called a phoropter. It fine-tunes eyeglass prescriptions.
- Pupil dilation. This is when an eye doctor places drops in the eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. It gives them a better view of the back of the eye to examine the optic nerve and other tissues.
Mild farsightedness doesn’t require treatment. Children usually outgrow the condition as their eyeballs continue to grow and lengthen throughout childhood.
However, several treatment options are available for farsightedness, including eyeglasses, contact lenses, and surgery:1
Eyeglasses are the most common treatment for farsightedness. They correct vision by compensating for how light bends as it passes through the eye. As a result, the light focuses directly on the retina, restoring normal vision.
Contact lenses work in the same way as eyeglasses to correct farsightedness, but the lenses sit directly on the eyeball. They’re a good option for people who don’t want to wear glasses or can’t wear them for certain activities, like sports.
There are two main types of contact lenses:
- Soft contacts. These are made of flexible plastic, and they conform to the shape of the eye.
- Gas-permeable contacts. These are made of rigid plastic, and they sit on the surface of the eye.
Eye doctors usually recommend soft contact lenses. They are more comfortable and easy to care for than hard contact lenses.
Refractive surgery changes the eyeball shape, so light focuses directly on the retina. The surgery can correct severe farsightedness.
The most common type of refractive surgery is laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK). During this procedure, a surgeon uses a special laser to create a small flap in the cornea. They also use the laser to remove tissue from the underlying cornea. This changes the shape of the cornea and improves vision.
Prognosis and Outlook
Most people with farsightedness don’t experience any serious complications.
Children usually outgrow the condition. For adults, corrective lenses like eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery are effective options for treating farsightedness. The type of treatment needed depends on the severity of the refractive error.
Can You Prevent Becoming Farsighted?
There’s no known way to prevent farsightedness, but keeping your eyes healthy can help reduce the risk of eye problems:
- Wear sunglasses or a hat outdoors to protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays
- Maintain a healthy diet that includes leafy green vegetables, fish, and nuts (these foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients good for the eyes)
- Exercise regularly to improve blood flow to the eyes
- Don’t smoke, as smoking increases the risk of developing eye problems
- Visit your eye doctor regularly for comprehensive eye exams to help catch vision problems early, monitor the condition(s), and check for any changes
Risks of Not Correcting Farsightedness
If left untreated, farsightedness can impact quality of life. It might affect the ability to perform certain tasks, play sports, or do hobbies. Attempting to maintain focus by squinting can also lead to eyestrain and headaches.
Additionally, farsightedness can lead to amblyopia. This is often called lazy eye. With this condition, the brain starts to ignore signals from the eye that can’t see well. Amblyopia can cause permanent vision loss if not treated.
Because people with farsightedness have trouble seeing near objects, it also increases the risk of falling and injuries, such as fractures.
Farsightedness is a vision condition that makes it difficult to see objects close up. It’s caused by an irregularly shaped eyeball or cornea.
Eye doctors can treat farsightedness with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery.
Most people with farsightedness don’t experience any serious complications. However, farsightedness can lead to eyestrain and amblyopia (lazy eye) if left untreated.
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