Overview

Farsightedness (hyperopia) is a common vision condition in which you can see distant objects clearly, but objects nearby may be blurry.

The degree of your farsightedness influences your focusing ability. People with severe farsightedness may see clearly only objects a great distance away, while those with mild farsightedness may be able to clearly see objects that are closer.

Farsightedness usually is present at birth and tends to run in families. You can easily correct this condition with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Another treatment option is surgery.

Symptoms

Farsightedness may mean:

  • Nearby objects may appear blurry
  • You need to squint to see clearly
  • You have eyestrain, including burning eyes, and aching in or around the eyes
  • You experience general eye discomfort or a headache after a prolonged interval of conducting close tasks, such as reading, writing, computer work or drawing

When to see a doctor

If your degree of farsightedness is pronounced enough that you can't perform a task as well as you wish, or if your quality of vision detracts from your enjoyment of activities, see an eye doctor. He or she can determine the degree of your farsightedness and advise you of options to correct your vision.

Since it may not always be readily apparent that you're having trouble with your vision, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following intervals for regular eye exams:

Adults

If you don't wear glasses or contacts, have no symptoms of eye trouble and are at a low risk of developing eye diseases, have a baseline eye exam around age 40. Then have an exam at the following intervals:

  • Every two to four years between 40 and 54 years
  • Every one to three years between 55 and 64 years
  • Every one to two years beginning at age 65

If you're at high risk of certain eye diseases, such as glaucoma, the frequency of visits should be increased to:

  • Every two to four years up to age 40
  • Every one to three years between 40 and 54 years
  • Every one to two years from age 55 onward

If you wear glasses or contacts, you'll likely need to have your eyes checked every year. Ask your eye doctor how frequently you need to schedule your appointments. But if you notice any problems with your vision, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible, even if you've recently had an eye exam. Blurred vision, for example, may suggest you need a prescription change, or it could be a sign of another problem.

Children and adolescents

Children need to be screened for eye disease and have their vision tested by a pediatrician, an ophthalmologist or another trained screener during the newborn period, and then at every routine health exam throughout early childhood.

Additionally, it's recommended that school-age children be screened at school or through community programs approximately every two years to check for vision problems.

Causes

Your eye has two parts that focus images:

  • The cornea, the clear front surface of your eye
  • The lens, a clear structure inside your eye that changes shape to help focus on objects

In a perfectly shaped eye, each of these focusing elements has a perfectly smooth curvature, like the surface of a marble. A cornea and lens with such curvature bend (refract) all incoming light to make a sharply focused image directly on the retina, at the back of your eye.

A refractive error

If your cornea or lens isn't evenly and smoothly curved, light rays aren't bent (refracted) properly, and you have a refractive error. Farsightedness is one type of refractive error.

Farsightedness occurs when your cornea is curved too little or your eye is shorter than normal. Instead of being focused precisely on your retina, light is focused behind your retina, resulting in a blurry appearance for close-up objects.

Other refractive errors

In addition to farsightedness, other refractive errors include:

  • Nearsightedness (myopia). This occurs when your cornea is curved too much or your eye is longer than normal, which makes faraway objects blurry and close objects clear.
  • Astigmatism. This occurs when your cornea or lens is curved more steeply in one direction than in another. Uncorrected astigmatism blurs your vision.

Complications

Farsightedness can be associated with several problems, such as:

  • Crossed eyes. Some children with farsightedness may develop crossed eyes. Specially designed eyeglasses that correct for part or all of the farsightedness may effectively treat this problem.
  • Reduced quality of life. Uncorrected farsightedness can affect your quality of life. You might not be able to perform a task as well as you wish. And your limited vision may detract from your enjoyment of day-to-day activities. In children, untreated farsightedness may cause learning problems.
  • Eyestrain. Uncorrected farsightedness may cause you to squint or strain your eyes to maintain focus. This can lead to eyestrain and headaches.
  • Impaired safety. For your own safety and that of others, don't drive or operate mechanical equipment if you have an uncorrected vision problem.

Prevention

You can't prevent farsightedness, but you can help protect your eyes and your vision. Follow these steps:

  • Have your eyes checked. Regardless of how well you see, have your eyes checked regularly.
  • Control chronic health conditions. Certain conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can affect your vision if you don't receive proper treatment.
  • Recognize symptoms. Sudden loss of vision in one eye, sudden hazy or blurred vision, flashes of light, black spots, or halos or rainbows around lights may signal a serious medical problem. Seek immediate medical care if you experience any of these signs or symptoms.
  • Protect your eyes from the sun. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This is especially important if you spend long hours in the sun or are taking a prescription medication that increases your sensitivity to UV radiation.
  • Eat healthy foods. Maintain a healthy diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. A diet containing these foods is necessary to maintain a healthy retina, and likely slows the progression of macular degeneration. Eat dark leafy foods and bright-colored fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, kale, carrots, yams and cantaloupe.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking can adversely affect your eye health. Smoking is one of the most important preventable risk factors for developing macular degeneration.
  • Use the right glasses. The right glasses optimize your vision. Having regular exams will ensure that your eyeglass prescription is correct.
  • Use good lighting. Turning up the lights can improve contrast and help you see better.
April 09, 2015
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