Farsightedness means that it’s easy for you to see things that are far away, but your close-up vision is blurry. The technical term for farsightedness is hyperopia. People can have varying degrees of farsightedness, depending on their eyes’ ability to focus on close-up objects. If you can only clearly see objects that are very far away, you are very farsighted.
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 (bend) incoming light, and then to 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, which carries that information to your brain.
A perfectly formed curved lens and cornea results in a perfectly focused image. Your eye you can’t focus correctly when light enters if your cornea is too flat. This causes farsightedness. You can also be farsighted if you have a shorter-than-normal eyeball. This causes light to be focused behind your retina instead of on it.
Farsightedness is very common and easy to correct. According to the National Eye Institute, five to 10 percent of Americans have this condition (NEI, 2012).
You are more likely to have farsightedness if your parents have this condition. It often develops in adults as the lenses of your eyes age.
If you’re farsighted, your eyes have to work hard to see anything up close. Some of the symptoms of farsightedness are due to this extra eyestrain. Symptoms include:
- blurry vision up close
- squinting to see better
- an aching or burning sensation around your eyes
- a headache after reading or other tasks that require you to focus on something up close
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.
Make an appointment with an eye doctor if your vision is blurry when looking at objects up close. He or she can easily diagnose farsightedness during a basic eye examination.
During the exam, your doctor will probably want to dilate (widen) your pupils (the black circles in the center of your eyeballs). He or she will put drops in your eyes that will do this. Then, the doctor will use a magnifying lens to look closely at your eyes. You might also need to look through and rate various glass lenses.
Farsightedness is not usually picked up in children’s vision tests at school. Usually, these tests involve reading charts of letters from across a room. This test only detects nearsightedness (the inability to see things far away).
Young people’s eyes can often compensate for farsightedness because their lenses are still flexible. However, older people often find that their aging eyes 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. Procedures such as Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) are more commonly used to treat nearsightedness. However, they 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.
However, refractive surgery is not as safe as wearing glasses. Possible complications of this surgery include:
- over- or under-correcting your vision
- seeing a starburst or halo around lights
- dry eyes
While refractive surgery rarely causes severe complications, it is still possible that it may damage your vision.
Wearing contact lenses or glasses will probably not have a significant impact on your lifestyle. Most people easily adapt.
Farsightedness is not something you can prevent. However, there are things you can do to take care of your eyes. Getting regular eye exams can help catch problems before they worsen. Be extra diligent in scheduling regular check-ups if you have a chronic condition that could affect your vision, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
Call your eye doctor immediately if you notice any sudden changes in your vision.
You can help 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 at a computer or reading.
Written by: Teresa Bergen
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD