Farsightedness medically termed as hyperopia (hi-per-O-pe-ah) is a common condition that affects approximately 25 per cent of the adult population. It refers to a vision problem in which the focusing power of the eye is too weak. This type of refractive error usually results in difficulty when focusing on close objects but depending on the severity can also affect distance vision as well. Farsightedness occurs when the eyeball is too short as measured from front to back or if the curvature of the cornea is flatter than normal. As a result light focuses behind the retina rather than directly on it.
‘Latent’ hyperopia is a term used to describe the amount of farsightedness that is ‘masked’ when the accommodative muscles are used to increase the eye’s focusing power. Since children under 10 years of age have tremendous focusing ability they can partially correct their farsightedness by focusing or accommodating their own eyes. However this often leads to unnecessary strained and tired eyes or headaches. In order to uncover the true amount of farsightedness a cycloplegic refraction is performed by using special drops to temporarily paralyze the muscles that control accommodation.
Many infants are born with their eyes in a hyperopic state. As they age; however some of them outgrow the condition as the eye lengthens and close vision improves. Other diseases such as diabetes, eye tumours, and lens dislocations might also contribute to farsightedness. Children should receive a complete eye examination by the age of three in order to rule out severe hyperopia which can lead to the development of a lazy eye (Amblyopia) or crossed eyes (Strabismus).
Common signs of farsightedness include:
- Difficulty in maintaining a clear focus on close visual objects
- Eye strain headaches or fatigue after performing work at close range
- Aching or tearing eyes
- Poor eye/hand co-ordination
- Occasional crossing of eyes (especially in children)
Diagnosis and Treatment
A comprehensive optometric examination will include testing for farsightedness. To determine the degree of farsightedness special drops are often used to relax the focusing system of the eye. This will result in unmasking the entire amount of farsightedness and determining whether treatment is indicated. In mild cases of hyperopia your eyes might be able to compensate without the use of corrective lenses. In more severe cases your eyecare practitioner can prescribe glasses or contact lenses to alter the way in which light enters the eye.