Also known as farsightedness or long-sightedness, hyperopia is a condition where objects in the distance are seen more clearly than those up close. The experience of hyperopia can vary considerably from person to person, especially when young people with hyperopia may not have any trouble with their vision and report better distance vision than many of their peers.
As well as the inability to see objects at close distances, patients with hyperopia can also suffer from a number of other associated problems, including:
- General blurred vision, especially when reading
- Squinting and problems with depth perception.
Less common conditions include amblyopia, strabismus, and accommodative dysfunction.
What causes hyperopia?
There can be several reasons for long-sightedness to develop:
- The eyeball is a little too short; this prevents the light from focussing in a point on the retina
- The cornea is too flat, meaning that light entering the eye is not focused sharply.
Hyperopia is present in almost all infants, however, this is usually overcome naturally because children tend to have highly flexible eye lenses, and can compensate for the error. As the child grows, the eyeball also grows, and the hyperopia slowly decreased.
Hyperopia often accompanies a turned or squinting eye and in this situation the affected eye can cause the brain to rely on the stronger eye only.
Specific treatment is required to ensure both eyes perform equally.
The standard diagnosis of hyperopia requires a number of tests including:
- Refraction test
- Visual acuity
- Retinal examination
- Eye movement
For the vast majority of people with long-sightedness, the standard treatment options include either corrective glasses or contact lenses. While this is an easy option, after a period of time some people can experience everyday problems with either of these options. They include:
- Spectacles can be lost, or broken
- Spectacles can also need upgrading to a revised prescription, which can be costly
- Glasses can be unsuitable for playing many sports e.g. most ball sports, boxing, swimming, skiing etc.
- Some spectacle wearers don’t like the look of glasses, aren’t comfortable with contact lenses and seek an alternative solution
- Contact lenses can only be worn for limited periods and can become uncomfortable.
Beyond spectacles and contact lenses, there are a number of alternatives to correct vision:
- LASIK: the most popular laser eye surgery procedure and suitable for those people whose prescription has stabilised (around the age of 20) and up to 40 years when the prescription begins to change again. LASIK reshapes the cornea to correct vision. A small flap allows access to the treatment area, so invasion is minimised.
- PRK: also known as PRK, this is a similar process to LASIK, however, the laser is applied directly to the cornea to correct vision.
- Refractive Lens Exchange: people over 50 years old who wish to be free of glasses, can choose a refractive lens exchange, also called lens replacement surgery. The procedure is identical to cataract surgery, but the natural lens of the eye is replaced in order to reduce or eliminate a person’s dependency on glasses rather than removing a cataract. Today, advanced new trifocal lens technology has the potential to restore overall vision.
Hyperopia is a very common disorder and, indeed, many people across the world have it in such a mild form, they simply don’t realise they have it. For most patients who are long-sighted, they can rely on one of the many corrective solutions available and go on to lead a perfectly normal life, at any age.