What Is It?
Farsightedness, also called hyperopia, is a condition in which a person has difficulty seeing objects close to the eye, although vision of distant objects is good.
In most cases, farsightedness is an inherited condition that is caused by an abnormally short eye, as measured from front to back. This reduces the distance between the cornea (the clear film that covers the front of the eye) and the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye). As a result, images tend to focus behind the retina, rather than on the retina itself. Sometimes, the eye is able to compensate partially or totally for this focusing problem through a process called accommodation. In accommodation, tiny ciliary muscles within the eye contract, altering the shape of the lens and bringing the viewed object into focus.
Symptoms of a farsightedness can include:
- Difficulty seeing objects that are fairly close to the eye — Specifically, you may notice that your vision blurs when you try to read a book, thread a needle or assemble small pieces of a model.
- Headaches — These may be related to overworked ciliary muscles that are struggling at accommodation.
- Crossed eyes in children — Severely farsighted children can appear cross-eyed (both eyes turn inward toward the nose) because of extreme efforts at accommodation. This condition, called accommodative esotropia, usually develops between the ages of 2 and 3. It can be constant or intermittent.
During childhood and adolescence, many people who have inherited short eyes do not show symptoms of farsightedness because their youthful eyes are so good at accommodation. With time, however, age-related changes in the lens can make accommodation less effective, and symptoms of farsightedness eventually appear.
After reviewing your symptoms, your doctor will perform a thorough eye examination, including tests of visual acuity (how well you can see).
Farsightedness is usually a lifelong condition, although symptoms may not be noticeable during childhood.
Most farsightedness is inherited and cannot be prevented.
If you are farsighted, your doctor probably will prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your problem. The lenses used in both of these treatments are thick in the center and thinner around the edges, which brings the viewed image forward into proper focus on the retina.
Some cases of farsightedness also can be corrected with laser eye surgery, such as LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis). Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several types of lasers for surgical treatment of farsightedness, not every farsighted person is a good candidate for this type of treatment. For updates on the benefits and risks of laser eye surgery and for a list of FDA-approved lasers, contact the FDA.
When To Call A Professional
Make an appointment to see your primary-care doctor or ophthalmologist (a doctor who specializes in eye problems) if your vision blurs when you try to read books or documents. Also contact your doctor if you find it difficult to see when you do close work, such as sewing, repair of delicate machinery or model building.
If you are a parent, call your pediatrician if your child holds books very close to his or her face while reading, complains of frequent headaches or appears cross-eyed.
If you are concerned that your baby is having trouble seeing near objects, in most cases there is no need to worry. Infants are normally very farsighted at birth, but this condition almost always corrects itself between the ages of 3 months and 2 years. However, make sure that your doctor checks your child’s eyes as a part of every well-baby visit. Your child also should have more formalized visual-acuity testing at about age 3½, then again at the start of school.
The long-term effects of laser eye surgery still are being evaluated. Many people report that they are very satisfied with the results of laser eye surgery, and tens of thousands of laser eye procedures are performed successfully each year in the United States. However, as in other forms of surgery, you should understand the risks and benefits of laser eye surgery before you decide whether to have the procedure done.
Diseases and Conditions Center
All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.