Farsightedness means it’s easy to see things that are far away, but your close-up vision (near vision) is blurry. The technical term for farsightedness is hyperopia. According to the National Eye Institute, it affects 5 to 10 percent of Americans.
To understand farsightedness, it’s important to understand how the eye works. Two parts of the eye are responsible for focusing: the cornea and the lens. The cornea is the clear front surface of the eye. The lens is a structure inside your eye that changes shape as you focus on objects.
The cornea and lens work together to refract, or bend, incoming light. Then they focus that light onto your retina. The retina is at the back of your eyeball. It receives visual information and sends it to your optic nerve. Your optic nerve carries that information to your brain.
A perfectly formed, curved lens and cornea result in a perfectly focused image. If your cornea is too flat, your eye can’t focus correctly.
There are varying degrees of farsightedness, depending on the eyes’ ability to focus on close-up objects. If you can only clearly see objects that are very far away, you’re severely farsighted. Generally this is easy to correct.
A flat cornea is one cause of farsightedness. You can also be farsighted if your eyeball is shorter than normal. This causes light to focus behind your retina instead of on it.
You’re more likely to have farsightedness if your parents do. It often develops in adults as the lenses of the eyes age.
If you’re farsighted, your eyes have to work hard to see anything up close. This causes eyestrain. Some symptoms of farsightedness are due to this extra eyestrain.
Some children develop strabismus (crossed eyes) because their farsightedness hasn’t been diagnosed and corrected. Farsightedness in children can also contribute to problems with learning to read and write.
It’s easy to diagnose farsightedness during a basic eye examination. Your eye doctor will dilate (widen) your pupils. Pupils are the black circles in the center of your eyeballs. Your eye doctor will put drops in your eyes to do this. Then they’ll use a magnifying lens to look closely at your eyes. You might also need to look through various glass lenses to test your vision.
Farsightedness isn’t usually picked up in children’s vision tests at school. These tests generally involve reading charts of letters from across the room. This only detects nearsightedness, which is the inability to see things far away.
Young people’s eyes can often compensate for farsightedness because their lenses are still flexible. Aging eyes, on the other hand, require glasses for close-up tasks such as reading or sewing.
The simplest way to correct farsightedness is to get prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. These corrective lenses change the way light enters your eyes, helping you focus better.
Refractive surgery can also treat farsightedness. This involves procedures like laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK). This is more commonly used to treat nearsightedness, but can also work if you’re farsighted. LASIK uses a laser to change your cornea’s curvature. This will make the light refract correctly, projecting a focused image onto your retina.
Refractive surgery isn’t as safe as wearing glasses. Possible complications of this surgery include:
Farsightedness isn’t something you can prevent, but you can do things to take care of your eyes. Get regular eye exams to help catch problems before they get worse. Be diligent in scheduling regular checkups if you have a chronic condition that could affect your vision, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
You can prevent eyestrain and protect your close-up vision with good lighting in your home and office, and by taking breaks throughout the day to rest your eyes. This is especially important if you spend long periods of time reading or looking at a computer.