What Is Farsightedness (Hyperopia)?

Farsightedness, also known as hyperopia, is a common condition where people struggle to see objects nearby. People with this problem will often have no issues seeing distant objects, but they may have difficulty reading a book or using a computer, for example. In the advanced stage of farsightedness, things nearby will also become blurry. Farsightedness affects about 5% to 10% of Americans.

Farsightedness
Ellen Lindner / Verywell

Symptoms

People can experience farsightedness in different ways. It is also possible that some people with farsightedness will not notice anything wrong with their vision.

The most common sign of hyperopia is that nearby objects will appear blurry, and people with farsightedness will often notice it when doing simple tasks such as reading or using a computer.

Performing tasks with objects nearby will force the eye’s muscles to work harder for farsighted people and trigger other symptoms, including:

  • Headaches
  • Squinting to see something clearly
  • Eyestrain, which can cause burning and itching
  • Dull pain in the eye

Farsightedness is the most common eye problem affecting children. Most infants are farsighted at birth, but less than 4 % of children have the condition at age 1. In most cases, the eyes correct themselves and children with farsightedness start seeing clearly even before parents notice they have any vision problems. 

However, some signs indicate that the farsightedness didn’t go away. Parents may notice some red flags, such as eyestrain or if the child has learning problems. It is also possible that farsighted children will not notice symptoms because other parts of their visual systems are able to compensate, at least temporarily, for the changes. Children with severe farsightedness also tend to develop other problems such as lazy eyes and strabismus. 

Causes

In a perfect eye, light bends (refraction) when entering the eye and goes through two different parts: first, the cornea, the covering at the front of the eye, then the lens, a clear piece that focuses the light deeper into the eye. The light forms a focused point onto the retina, a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye. The retina will send the information to the brain and result in the images we see.

In some cases, like farsightedness, light enters the eye differently, causing refractive errors where the images are focused behind the retina rather than directly on it. Farsightedness often happens when the cornea has an abnormal shape (too short or too flat) or when the eye muscles are getting weaker with increasing age.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is made with a dilated eye test. The exam will identify the problem and define the severity of each case. People should schedule a visit with an optometrist or ophthalmologist when they notice symptoms of farsightedness. It is also important to note that nearly everyone experiences increasing farsightedness, which usually begins in their late 30s to mid-40s. Even if there are no symptoms, it is important to schedule an eye exam every two years.

During the exam, the eye care professional will use eye drops to dilate the eye and increase the pupil’s size. Then they will use a magnifying lens to check the back of the eye. This process will allow the optometrist or ophthalmologist to identify the problem and the best way to correct it. 

Treatment

Hyperopia is a common problem and is often easy to treat. The doctors will usually recommend corrective lenses or refractive surgery. 

Eyeglasses

The most common and simplest way to correct farsightedness is by wearing eyeglasses. The convex lenses will increase the refraction and correct hyperopia. After the exam, the eye care professional will be able to say the best type of eyeglasses for the case and explain how to wear them. 

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses are another common solution for farsightedness. They change the refraction in the same way eyeglasses do. However, not everyone can wear them, especially if there are other problems in the eye system.

Refractive Surgery

A number of surgeries can correct different types of refractive errors, where the doctor will often reshape the cornea to improve the focusing ability of or insert a lens on the eye. The surgery to correct hyperopia will give the cornea a steeper shape. As a result, images that are focused beyond the retina, due to a short eye or flat cornea, will be pulled closer to or directly onto the retina after surgery.

Laser in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) are the most common options for hyperopia. Even with surgery, the condition may come back after several years. These procedures are not recommended for everyone. Severely dry eyes, extremely thin cornea, and people with uncontrolled diabetes are some problems that make this surgery unsuitable.

A Word From Verywell

Farsightedness is a common problem. It is often easy to manage, but it is not possible to prevent it. The eye muscles tend to weaken over the years, and it is essential to have your eyes checked every few years, even if there are no symptoms of farsightedness or other eye problems. If there are sudden changes in vision, see a doctor straight away.

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Article Sources
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  1. National Eye Institute. Farsightedness

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Farsightedness. Updated November 25, 2020.

  3. MedlinePlus. Farsightedness

  4. Cleaveland Clinic. Farsightedness. Updated on November 25, 2020

  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eye Health Information for Adults 40 to 65. Updated September 02, 2020.

  6. American Academy of Ophthalmology. What Is Refractive Surgery? December 12, 2020.

  7. Cleveland Clinic. Farsightedness: Outlook / Prognosis. Updated November 25. 2020.

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