What is it?
A person with farsightedness, also called hyperopia, has difficulty seeing objects close to the eye. They can see distant objects well.
In most cases, farsightedness is an inherited condition caused by an eye that is too short 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). Because this distance is shorter, images tend to focus behind the retina, rather than on the retina.
Usually, the eye is able to compensate, partially or totally, for this focusing problem through a process called accommodation. This is especially true in younger people. In accommodation, tiny muscles within the eye contract, altering the shape of the lens and bringing the viewed object into focus.
Symptoms of farsightedness can include:
- Difficulty seeing objects fairly close to the eye – 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 eye muscles that are struggling to bring objects into focus.
- Crossed eyes in children – Severely farsighted children can appear cross-eyed (both eyes turn inward toward the nose) because of extreme efforts to focus. This condition, called accommodative esotropia, usually develops in early childhood. It can be constant or show up from time to time.
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 accommodating. With time, however, age-related changes in the lens can make the process of accommodation less effective, and symptoms of farsightedness eventually appear.
After reviewing your symptoms, your doctor will examine your eyes, and will test 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 edge, which brings the viewed image forward into proper focus on the retina.
Many cases of farsightedness can be corrected with laser eye surgery, such as LASIK (laser in situ keratomileusis). Although the 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.
You or your child needs an eye exam if your vision blurs when you try to read or if you find it difficult to see when you do close work, such as sewing, repairing delicate machinery, or building models. Contact your doctor's office.
When to call a professional
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.
Infants are normally very farsighted at birth, but this condition almost always corrects itself between ages 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 visual testing at about age 3 and a half, and again at the start of school.
Most people find satisfaction with eyeglasses or contact lenses to adjust for farsightedness.
Many people report satisfaction with the results of laser eye surgery, and tens of thousands of 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.
National Eye Institute
American Academy of Ophthalmology
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)