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About Hyperopia (Farsightedness):
Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments

Category: Eye Conditions

Published: 2017-10-10

Often referred to as farsightedness, hyperopia is a common refractive error that occurs in approximately 23.9% of Americans aged 40 and over. In the United States, close to 14 million individuals suffer from the condition and in Alabama, the rates of occurrence are around 9.8% of the population experiencing some form of hyperopia.

To better understand hyperopia, this article will provide a comprehensive overview of the causes, symptoms and treatments of farsightedness.

What is Hyperopia?

Individuals that suffer from hyperopia often have trouble clearly seeing objects that are closer to their eyes. Objects that are distant may seem more clear than objects that are near, such as words and letters that may be found in a magazine or book.

As people experience hyperopia differently, some may not notice any problems with their vision, especially when they are young. On the other hand, individuals with significant hyperopia can experience blurry vision for objects at any distance.

Who Can Develop Hyperopia?

Anyone can develop hyperopia. As it affects about 5-10% of Americans, hyperopia forms in children and adults of all ages, genders and races. Individuals with parents who have hyperopia may have a higher likelihood to get the condition, however, there is no clear correlation between the two.

Understanding Refractive Errors

Refraction is the bending of light as it passes through one object to another. When light rays are refracted as they pass through the cornea and lens, vision is created. The light rays focus on the retina and the retina converts these light rays into messages that pass to the brain via the optic nerve. A physical irregularity in the eye, such as its shape, length of the eyeball, or the age of the lens prevents light that enters the cornea and lens from refracting normally and creates a refractive error.

In a “normal” eye, light enters through the lens and focuses on the retina, creating clear vision. With hyperopia, light that enters the eye is focused behind the retina due to a physical irregularity in the eye and creates a blurry image.

Other refractive errors include:

Frequency and Prevalence of Hyperopia in Americans

The National Eye Institute (NEI) reports that an estimated 5-10% of Americans are affected by some degree of hyperopia.

Statistical data from 2010 shows a 20% increase in cases of hyperopia between 2000 and 2010; where 83% of individuals affected were of White ethnicity, 6% Black, 7% Hispanic and 4% Other.

(The link to this statistical data can be found here).

Causes of Hyperopia

Like all refractive errors, hyperopia is not an eye disease. It is caused by a physical irregularity in the eye such as the the shape of the eye, or the abnormal shape of the cornea or lens.

Irregular Eye Shape

When the eye is too short (from front to back), the light that passes through the lens will not be refracted on the retina to create clear vision. In this case, the light refracts behind the retina and creates blurry vision.

Abnormal Shape of Cornea or Lens

If the cornea is not curved enough or if the lens sits farther back in the eye than it should, the light that passes through the lens will not be refracted on the retina. As with an eye that is too short, the light will refract behind the retina and create blurry vision.

Hyperopia Symptoms

Although hyperopia typically begins in childhood, the flexible lens in young children makes it difficult to diagnose as the lens naturally compensates for it. Once the eyes stop growing at around 9 years old, and as we age, they are no longer able to resolve the focusing problem and it becomes more obvious that there may be something off.

Individuals with hyperopia may experience some (or all) of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty focusing on objects that are closer to you
  • Headaches and eye strain caused by squinting
  • Fatigued or burning eyes

Diagnosing Hyperopia

Like other refractive vision problems, hyperopia can be easily diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam.

During the exam, a series of tests are administered to help the doctor determine your visual acuity and whether or not you have hyperopia as well as the degree of its progression.

Effective Treatments for Hyperopia

Corrective Lenses (Glasses)

Hyperopia can be easily corrected with glasses. Once the degree of hyperopia is determined, the prescription for the lenses needed to correct it is placed into your choice of frames. Depending on the prescription, some individuals may choose to not wear their glasses at all times, rather choosing to only wear them when reading or performing intricate work.

Contact Lenses

As with glasses, hyperopia can be conveniently corrected with contact lenses. Once a prescription is determined, various options of contact lenses are available. They can be soft or hard, made from a variety of materials, disposable or reusable.

Laser Eye Surgery

Laser Refractive Surgery, or LASIK as it is most commonly known, is the most widely performed laser vision correction surgery. Performed by a surgeon, LASIK corrects the focusing error by giving the cornea a different shape. Once the cornea has a different shape, the light entering the eye is able to properly refract on the retina and create clear vision.

Learn more about laser eye surgery and whether it is right for you.

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