What does being farsighted mean? Many people assume it means just what the words say, “far sighted.” You see well far away but can’t see close up. However, it’s more complicated than this simple definition. The technical term for “farsightedness” is hypermetropia (“bilateral hypermetropia” simply means both eyes are affected) or, the more commonly used term, hyperopia. Hyperopia occurs when 1. the axial length of the eyeball, from front to back, is too short, 2. the optics of the eye are not bending light strongly enough, or 3. a combination of the two.
What this amounts to, visually speaking, is that the image is focused behind the retina, rather than on the retina, which leads to the image being blurry. In most cases of hyperopia, this is more pronounced at near vision, although intermediate and distance vision can also be affected as the level of hyperopia increases.
For patients with low to moderate amounts of hyperopia, and younger ages (usually under 40 years old) good vision at all distances is still attainable due to the eye’s focusing system. The internal lens of the eye, located behind each pupil, can focus through certain amounts of hyperopia and bring the image to the retina, and therefore make the image clear.
This leads us to a brief aside about a common misconception. Many people often equate hyperopia and presbyopia as being the same condition. They are not. Presbyopia, which literally means “old eyes”, is a condition where the internal lens of the eye starts to lose its ability to focus light. Once this condition begins to occur, which is usually around 40 or somewhat older, mild to moderately farsighted people (and nearsighted people alike) will start to notice they have a more difficult time seeing smaller details up close.
How does this relate to a farsighted person who has never needed vision correction? As was mentioned already, farsighted people with mild to moderate prescriptions might not notice any vision problems at all until they start approaching 40 years old, or shortly thereafter. These are the people who don’t seem to need glasses most of their life and then suddenly find they can’t see close up. These may also be the people who suddenly start reporting eye strain, fatigue, and blurry vision that occurs from extended near work — something they most likely had not experienced when they were younger. For these people, a simple pair of reading glasses worn only for near activities solves the problem. They might wear the glasses while reading or working on a computer, but aside from these activities, the glasses are not required to see farther away. If they do need to be able to see up close and distance simultaneously (without having to remove their readers constantly), a multifocal lens may be needed to provide the vision required.
However, not all farsighted people are created equal. As the levels of farsightedness increase, vision at all ranges can be affected. In these cases, glasses may need to be worn all day. People with higher amounts of hyperopia may tell you that their vision is not clear at any distance! Thankfully, there are glasses, contact lenses, and even surgical options for those who suffer from higher amounts of hyperopia. If you’re dealing with eye strain, headaches, blurry near vision, or even blurry vision at all distances, make an appointment to see your eye care provider and discuss your options. You’ll be glad you did!