Farsightedness (Hyperopia)

       Farsightedness (or Hyperopia) is probably one of the more difficult medical conditions to understand.  The name itself is kind of a misnomer.  Some farsighted patients can see clearly far away, as well as up-close.  Other farsighted patients may not be able to see clearly at either distance.  The way hyperopia affects a person is relative to their age, the amount of hyperopia they have, and how well they can accommodate (near focusing ability) to compensate.
       Hyperopia is a condition that involves the cornea (flatter than normal), the length of the eyeball (shorter in diameter than normal), or a combination of the two which causes light to enter into the eye and focus behind the retina.   This article is not intended to give you all the intricate details about the condition, but rather to give you a basic understanding.

Understanding Hyperopia

       Due to the shape of a farsighted eye, light focuses behind the retina. This will make both distant and near vision blurry in most cases.  In order to focus the light ON the retina for clear vision to occur, plus power convex lenses (in glasses or contacts) are used to shorten the focal point so the light rays can be focused at the appropriate position.
       A farsighted person can ‘compensate’ to see clearly by using their ‘accommodation’ abilities of their eyes.  Accommodation is the eye’s ability to focus on objects at near.  The eye’s inner muscles have to contract (flex) in order for the lens (inside the eye) to change shape….kind of like a camera‘s auto-focus.  This mechanism can be used by the patient to artificially create the prescription needed to see clearly far away.  By doing so, this puts a high demand on the patient’s accommodative system which makes it work twice as hard to maintain clear vision at near.  This leads to eye strain, eye fatigue, blurry vision, and often headaches.  If the patient has a high amount of hyperopia, then the eye usually can’t compensate enough to give clear vision at any distance.

How age affects Hyperopia

       Often times, a farsighted person will use this compensating method to see clear their whole life, and usually never know they are doing so….until their early 40’s anyway.  Then all of a sudden they can’t see very good at near distances, and often times it will be blurry at both far and near.  This is due to the natural changes that take place with the lens inside of the eye - called Presbyopia.  The lens begins to harden and lose its elasticity (flexing ability), which makes it very difficult to compensate anymore.  Presbyopia will happen to EVERYONE, no matter what race, gender, prescription, etc.  The symptoms of presbyopia will be experienced in different severities depending on a person’s prescription….which usually tends to have a greater affect on a farsighted person in the early stages.  This is also why a farsighted person will have difficulty seeing clearly far away after they have been focusing at near for a certain amount of time - the lens just doesn’t change shapes as quickly as it used to. (See presbyopia for more details.)