Updated on  November 2, 2022
8 min read

Farsightedness (Hyperopia) - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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What is Hyperopia (Farsightedness)?

Hyperopia, also called farsightedness, is a common refractive error. Hyperopia causes distant objects to appear more clearly, while close objects appear blurry.1

Hyperopia is a complex condition that ranges from mild to severe. It’s usually present at birth and often runs in families. It can affect people of all ages but is most common in children and adults over 40. 

Hyperopia is easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Refractive surgery is also an option. Many people with mild farsightedness don’t have symptoms or require treatment.

hyperopia 1

Signs and Symptoms of Hyperopia

Signs and symptoms of hyperopia include:

  • Difficulty or discomfort with close tasks like reading, writing, and working on a computer
  • Blurry vision when looking at things up close
  • Eye strain
  • Aching or burning eyes
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Squinting

People with farsightedness often have difficulty reading up close. They may feel tired or irritable after prolonged periods of near work. This is because the eyes work harder than they should to see clearly.2

Symptoms of Childhood Hyperopia

Most children have some degree of farsightedness, yet many don't have blurry vision. This is because the lens in a child’s eyes is more flexible, and they can change focus between distances more easily. 

As the eyes grow, mild childhood hyperopia diminishes or goes away completely. Children with severe farsightedness may be at risk for other eye problems, such as amblyopia (lazy eye).

Some hyperopic children may squint or rub their eyes when doing close work such as reading or homework.

What Causes Hyperopia?

Farsightedness occurs when your eye doesn’t bend light properly. To see clearly, your eyes must bend light rays to land on your retina (the back layer of the eye). The retina sends signals to your brain, which allows you to see.

Your eye has two structures that help you focus:

  • The cornea. This is the clear, dome-shaped part of the front of your eye.
  • The lens. This is a clear part of your eye that sits behind the iris (colored part of the eye).

With hyperopia, the shape of these structures prevents light from bending properly. 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 that’s too flat. 

These abnormalities make light rays focus behind the retina instead of directly on its surface. Usually, this causes distant objects to appear clearly while near ones are blurred.

Hyperopia vs. Myopia

Hyperopia and myopia are two types of refractive errors. They both occur when the eye doesn’t bend (refract) light as it should.

Here are the differences between hyperopia and myopia:

  • Hyperopia (farsightedness) happens when light is focused behind the retina. This condition causes blurry vision when viewing close objects.
  • Myopia (nearsightedness) is the opposite of hyperopia, occurring when light is focused in front of the retina. This condition causes distant objects to appear blurred.

Hyperopia and Genetics

Farsightedness runs in families. Hyperopic patients usually have a farsighted parent.  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:

  • Microphthalmia
  • Achromatopsia
  • Aniridia
  • 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 Hyperopia

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.

Diagnosing Hyperopia

An eye care professional can diagnose farsightedness during a comprehensive eye exam, which may include the following tests:

Visual Acuity Test

This eye exam assesses how well you can see at various distances. Your eye doctor may have you read lines of text from an eye chart or screen.

Visual Field Test

This test identifies blind spots (scotoma) in your field of vision. Your visual field is the area you can see when focusing on a central point.

Tonometry

This test measures your eye pressure, also called intraocular pressure (IOP). Tonometry is one of many tests that helps your eye doctor determine your risk for glaucoma.

Retinoscopy

This test assesses the way light reflects off the retina. It can measure the refractive error in people who aren’t able to complete a refraction test. Eye doctors often use retinoscopy to determine children’s eyeglass prescriptions.

Refraction Test

Also called subjective refraction, this test fine-tunes your eyeglass prescription. It uses a phoropter machine to test how different lenses affect your vision.

Pupil Dilation

For this test, your eye doctor will give you eye drops to widen, or dilate, your pupils. This allows your doctor to see the back wall of your eye to examine the retina and optic nerve.

Treatment Options for Hyperopia

Mild farsightedness doesn’t require treatment. Children usually outgrow the condition as their eyeballs grow and lengthen throughout childhood.

However, several treatment options are available for farsightedness, including eyeglasses, contact lenses, and surgery:1

Eyeglasses

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.

There are many types of eyeglasses available, including:

  • Single vision
  • Bifocals
  • Trifocals
  • Progressive multifocals

Your eye doctor will recommend the best type of glasses for you. 

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses work 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.

Soft contact lenses are more comfortable and easy to care for than hard contact lenses.

Like eyeglasses, contacts come in multifocal and monovision designs. Ask your eye doctor about the type and design that’ll best suit your needs.

Refractive Surgery

Refractive surgery changes the eyeball shape, so light focuses directly on the retina. These surgical treatments can correct severe farsightedness. Different surgical options include:

LASIK

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.

LASEK

Laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy (LASEK) involves making an ultra-thin flap in the outer layer of the cornea (epithelium). The surgeon uses a laser to reshape the outer layers of the cornea. Then, they replace the epithelium.

PRK

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is similar to LASEK. The main difference is that the surgeon completely removes the epithelium before reshaping the cornea. They don’t replace the epithelium, but it regrows naturally, matching the cornea’s new shape.

Prognosis and Outlook

Most people with farsightedness don’t experience any serious complications.

Children usually outgrow the condition. For adults, corrective 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. This helps protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. This includes plenty of leafy green vegetables, fish, and nuts (these foods are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients good for the eyes).
  • Exercise regularly. This improves blood flow to the eyes.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of developing eye problems.
  • Visit your eye doctor regularly. Routine, comprehensive eye exams help catch vision problems early and monitor your eye health. 

Risks of Not Correcting Farsightedness 

If left untreated, farsightedness can impact your quality of life. It might affect your 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.

Summary

  • Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, is trouble seeing nearby objects
  • Hyperopia happens when your eye focuses light behind your retina
  • An irregularly shaped cornea or lens can cause hyperopia
  • Your eye doctor can diagnose hyperopia during an eye exam
  • Hyperopia is easily treated with corrective lenses or surgery
  • Without treatment, hyperopia can lead to eye strain and amblyopia (lazy eye)
Updated on  November 2, 2022
6 sources cited
Updated on  November 2, 2022
  1. Majumdar. S., et al. “Hyperopia.” StatPearls, 2022.
  2. Porter, D. “Farsightedness: Hyperopia symptoms.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2022.
  3. Farsightedness.” Medline Plus. 2018.
  4. Comprehensive eye exams.” American Optometric Association, n.d.
  5. Vision loss, blindness, and smoking.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022.
  6. Farsightedness.” Mayo Clinic, 2020.
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