Throughout this guide we’ll look at what hyperopia is, what causes it, what the symptoms are and how it can be diagnosed and treated. We’ll also touch on some of the most frequently asked questions about the condition.
What is Hyperopia?
Hyperopia is the technical and medical name for farsightedness or long-sightedness. You may also hear it referred to as hypermetropia.
It is a common eye condition involving a refractive error, meaning the eye doesn’t refract (bend) the light as it should do in order to create clear, focused images. When you suffer from hyperopia, those objects in the distance may look clear but ones closer to you appear blurred.
How people experience hyperopia can be different from person to person. Some may find that their vision isn’t too greatly affected, particularly while they’re young, but others may find that they’re struggling to focus on objects in the distance and close-up.
The most common cases of hyperopia occur in adults aged 40 and over, however, it can affect people of all ages, including young children and babies.
What Causes Hyperopia?
To be able to see clearly, your eyes must refract or bend light rays using the lens, cornea and tear film. These elements focus the light onto the retina, which is the layer of cells at the back of your eye that is light-sensitive. Once the retina receives this picture, it transfers the message to the brain via the optic nerve.
Hyperopia occurs because the cornea (the front of the eye that’s clear) is too flat or your eye is shorter than average. Because of this, the light rays are being focused behind the retina, instead of on it, which means you’re able to see distant objects but those closer to you become blurred.
Farsightedness is like myopia (nearsightedness) in so much that it is usually an inherited condition. A lot of children suffer from hyperopia but aren’t aware of it because they don’t have blurred vision. Due to their eyes’ focusing abilities, they’re able to bend the rays of light to focus them correctly on the retina.
If hyperopia isn’t too serious, children with the condition will be able to see clearly, both up close and in the distance. As their eyes grow and become bigger, their hyperopia will lessen.
What are the Symptoms of Hyperopia?
If you have hyperopia, you may be experiencing:
- Blurred eyesight when looking at close-up objects
- A need to squint in order to see things clearly
- Eyestrain, which includes aching eyes (in or around them) or burning eyes
- Headaches or discomfort in your eyes after you’ve been doing close-up tasks, such as drawing, working on the computer, writing or reading
When Should You See an Optician?
If your level of hyperopia is serious enough that you can’t carry out tasks as well as you want to, or if your vision is affecting day-to-day activities, you should see your optician as soon as you can. They will be able to establish how serious your farsightedness is and will be able to advise what steps need taking in order to correct your vision.
As hyperopia might not be directly apparent, the NHS recommends that you should get your eyes tested every two years. However, if you have diabetes, you’re aged 40+ and have a history of glaucoma in your family or you’re aged 70+, you might need more frequent eye tests.
How is Hyperopia Diagnosed?
Hyperopia can be diagnosed as part of a routine eye test. Using a standard vision test, your optician will be able to determine whether or not you have the condition.
What Can I Expect During an Eye Test?
Usually, your eyes will be tested by an optometrist. This is someone who’s specially trained to examine your eyes, and they may conduct a number of different routine tests.
- Measuring the pressure inside your eyes
- Measuring how well your eyes are working together
- Asking you to read rows of letters from a chart. This is a visual acuity test with each of the rows of letters getting smaller and smaller as you go along
- A retinoscopy – during this test, the optician will shine a light into your eye to see how well your eye reacts to it
If during these tests, any potential problems are detected with your near vision, the visual acuity tests may be repeated while you’re wearing different strength lenses. This allows the optometrist to establish what prescription, if any, you require in your glasses.
What Does My Glasses Prescription Mean?
Should the eye tests indicate that you require glasses/contact lenses to correct your hyperopia, you’ll be given a detailed prescription that shows what lenses are needed to improve your vision.
Your prescription will often contain three numbers for each of your eyes. These are:
- Cyl (cylinder) – this number will show whether or not you have astigmatism (a common eye condition where your lens or cornea isn’t perfectly curved – this can cause distorted or blurred vision) in either of your eyes
- Axis – describes the angle of astigmatism detailed above – if you have one
- Sph (sphere) – a negative number indicates you’re shortsighted, while a positive number will show you’re long sighted (have hyperopia)
For hyperopia, the Sph number is the one that’s most relevant. This is provided in a measurement of dioptres (D), which will describe the severity of your long sightedness.
Mild hyperopia is normally considered anywhere up to 3D, but anything over 6D tends to be considered quite severe.
How Can Hyperopia be Treated?
There are a number of different ways hyperopia can be treated:
Treating Hyperopia with Glasses
Hyperopia can often be safely and easily corrected using glasses that are tailored specifically to your required prescription. By wearing a lens that’s been made to suit your prescription, this will make sure light is focused correctly on your retina (the back of your eye), making sure close-up objects are no longer blurry.
The weight and thickness of the lenses you need will depend on how severe your hyperopia is. As this condition can worsen with age, you may find that the strength of your prescription increases as you get older.
Treating Hyperopia with Contact Lenses
Contact lenses work in much the same was as glasses do, but some people prefer this option as they’re almost invisible and can be much more convenient than glasses. However, others do find they’re more hassle than glasses.
You can wear contact lenses on a daily basis (daily disposables) before discarding these at the end of the day, or, some can be disinfected before being reused. These ones can be worn for longer periods of time, but in doing this, you are increasing your risk of infection.
It’s worth seeking the advice of your optician before proceeding with contact lenses, as they will be able to advise you what type of contact lenses are best suited to you. Should you decide to opt for contact lenses, it’s crucial you adhere to good lens hygiene in order to prevent any eye infections from developing.
Treating Hyperopia with Laser Eye Surgery
During laser eye surgery, your cornea (the front cover of your eye that’s transparent) will be reshaped by a laser. This helps improve the curvature of the cornea so it better focuses the light on your retina.
The most common type of laser eye surgery used to correct hyperopia is LASIK, which stands for laser in situ keratectomies. During this procedure, a small flap is cut into your cornea to allow the surgeon to remove some of the layers inside your cornea to improve its shape. Once the procedure is done, the flap is put back in place. This is carried out whilst you’re awake and is done under local anaesthetic eye drops that are placed directly into your eye to numb it.
The procedure typically lasts for around 30 minutes, and you can have both eyes treated on the same day if required. You will be able to go home as soon as the operation has been carried out but someone else will need to drive you home. However, after just a day, you should be able to start driving and working again.
Other types of laser eye surgery include laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy (LASEK), which makes a flap in the thin protective layer of the cornea (epithelium) rather than the cornea as a whole; and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), where the epithelium is removed and grows back naturally after the procedure has taken place. The later takes more time to recover from.
LASIK is only available if:
- The surface of your eye is deemed to be in good enough health
- The curvature of your cornea isn’t too steep
- Your cornea is thick enough
What Results Can I Expect from Laser Eye Surgery?
Laser eye surgery can improve your vision (both for distance and close-up activities), allowing you to carry out your day-to-day tasks without needing to wear glasses.
The majority of people who have LASIK say they’re happy with their vision afterward, but, for certain activities, glasses may still be required.
Furthermore, as with any form of surgery, there are some risks involved and the results cannot be guaranteed. In some cases, you may require repeat treatment.
What are the Potential Risks and Complications with Laser Eye Surgery?
There are some risks and potential side effects that can occur as a result of laser eye surgery. These include:
- Hazy vision – To fully recover from laser eye surgery, it can take up to six months. During the first few weeks after the operation, some people do notice a haze or blur that forms around bright lights, with about 5% of people requiring laser treatments to further improve their vision.
- Eye discomfort – Some people experience discomfort in their eyes after laser eye surgery as some of the protective layers found at the front of the eye can be affected for a period of time. However, in these cases, lubricant eye drops tend to help and these aren’t needed after a few months.
In a few cases, there are some potential complications that are of a serious nature, and these could put your vision at risk. This includes the cornea being scarred or becoming infected. Nevertheless, these problems are incredibly rare and can often be rectified with a corneal transplant if necessary.
It’s important to consider these risks before deciding whether or not to go ahead with laser eye surgery.
Can I Have Laser Eye Surgery?
If you’re under the age of 21, you shouldn’t have laser eye surgery as your eyes may still be developing.
Once you’re over 21, laser eye surgery should only be considered if the prescription for your contact lenses or glasses has changed significantly in the last two years.
Other people who may not be suitable for laser eye surgery include people who have other eye conditions, such as cataracts (cloudy patches that occur in the lens) or dry eyes. Or, if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant, laser eye surgery may not be advisable as your body is producing hormones that can fluctuate your eyesight, making the precision of your surgery more difficult.
For many people with hyperopia, laser eye surgery can be a viable option, especially if your prescription is 4D or below. Those with prescriptions over this amount may still receive effective treatments, but you should consult with your eye surgeon to see if this is likely or not.
Treating Hyperopia with Artificial Lens Implants
As laser eye surgery isn’t suitable for everyone, there is another potential option available – artificial lens implants.
This surgery involves replacing the natural lens that’s found inside the eye with an implant containing a multifocal lens – this is also known as a refractive lens exchange. It is similar to the surgery that’s carried out for cataracts and is performed using a local anaesthetic. This means you can go home as soon as the procedure has been carried out.