What is farsightedness?

Farsightedness means you can clearly see things that are far away, but things that are close-up are blurry. The technical term for farsightedness is hyperopia. According to the National Eye Institute, it affects 5 to 10 percent of Americans.

To understand farsightedness, it’s helpful to know how the normal eye works. Two parts of the eye are responsible for focusing: the cornea and the lens. The cornea is the clear front surface of your eye. The lens is a structure inside your eye that changes shape as you focus on objects.

The cornea and lens work together to bend, or refract, incoming light. Then they 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 allow you to see a perfectly focused image. But if your cornea has a different shape, your eye can’t focus correctly.

There are varying degrees of farsightedness, depending on the eyes’ ability to focus on close-up objects. If you can only clearly see objects that are very far away, you’re severely farsighted. Generally, farsightedness can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. Some people have refractive surgery.

A flat cornea is one cause of farsightedness. You can also be farsighted if your eyeball is shorter than normal. This causes light to focus beyond your retina instead of on it. You’re more likely to be farsighted if your parents are.

If you’re farsighted, your eyes have to work hard to see anything up close. This causes eyestrain. Some symptoms of farsightedness are due to this extra eyestrain.

Symptoms include:

  • blurry vision for words or objects 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

In children, strabismus (crossed eyes) can develop when significant farsightedness hasn’t been diagnosed and corrected.

An eye doctor can diagnose farsightedness during a basic eye examination.

  • First your eye doctor will check your vision at different distances with an eye chart.
  • Depending on the results, they may recommend a dilated eye exam. For it, your eye doctor puts drops in your eyes to make your pupils (the black circle in the center of each eye) widen (dilate). Dilated eyes let your doctor see the back of your eye more clearly.
  • Your doctor uses a magnifying lens to look more closely at your eyes.
  • They’ll also have you look through a variety of lenses in order to correct your vision, making close objects appear clearly.

School vision tests often miss farsightedness in children. Typically schools only test far vision by having a child stand across the room from a chart to read the letters or symbols on it. If a child cannot see things from a far distance, it may be due to nearsightedness.

Children who don’t pass a vision test at school should see an eye specialist, who will also check their close-up vision It is important to learn the cause of any vision problems your child has. You should also make an appointment with an eye doctor if your child frequently squints, complains of headaches, has difficulties in school, or complains that things are blurry.

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.

Young people’s eyes can often compensate for vision problems like farsightedness because their eyes’ lenses are still flexible. In fact, farsightedness in children often does not need to be corrected. An eye doctor may prescribe eyeglasses for a child if:

  • there’s a big difference in vision between eyes
  • they are developing strabismus (crossed eyes)
  • their vision is greatly affected

Refractive surgery can also treat farsightedness. Surgery involves procedures like laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK). While this procedure ismore commonly used to treat nearsightedness, it can also treat farsightedness. LASIK uses a laser to change your cornea’s curvature so that light refracts correctly and projects a focused image on your retina.

Learn more: Laser therapy »

Refractive surgery isn’t as safe as wearing glasses. Though refractive surgery rarely causes severe complications, it’s possible that it may damage your vision. Possible complications of this surgery include:

  • over- or under-correcting your vision
  • seeing a starburst or halo around lights
  • infection
  • dry eyes

Wearing contact lenses or glasses will probably not have a significant impact on your lifestyle. Most people easily adapt.

Farsightedness isn’t something you can prevent, but you can do things to take care of your eyes.

  • Get regular eye exams to help catch problems early.
  • Get yearly checkups if you have chronic conditions that could affect your vision, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
  • If you have ongoing eye problems, like glaucoma, follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
  • See your doctor if you develop changes in vision or if you have eye pain, red eyes, or a discharge from your eyes.

Learn more: Standard ophthalmic exam »

You can prevent eyestrain and protect your close-up vision with good lighting in your home and office. It also helps to take breaks throughout the day to rest your eyes. Rest is especially important if you spend long periods of time reading or looking at a computer.

Call your eye doctor immediately if you notice any sudden vision changes, flashing lights, or loss of vision.