Hyperopia is a common refractive error that causes nearby objects to appear blurry while distant objects look clear. It happens when light entering the eye doesn't focus in the right place to give you clear vision. Hyperopia is commonly known as farsightedness or long-sightedness, and sometimes hypermetropia.
Hyperopia can be corrected by wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses. Some people are suitable for laser eye surgery to correct their hyperopia permanently. Everyone with a refractive error should have regular eye exams to check their prescription is up to date and prevent symptoms such as headaches and eye strain.
The symptoms of hyperopia might not be obvious at first, as they can develop gradually. Symptoms can also be hard to spot in children who might not be able to describe problems with their vision. Children with hyperopia can often see at close and far distances by squinting to compensate for their farsightedness. That's why the NHS recommends regular eye exams which can detect eye problems, including refractive errors like hyperopia.
Common symptoms of uncorrected hyperopia can include:
- Blurred vision when looking at nearby objects
- Headaches and eye strain, especially when doing close-up work like reading
Children with uncorrected hyperopia can develop other vision problems, including lazy eye (amblyopia), squint (strabismus), and may have problems at school, for example struggling to see learning materials.
Regular eye examinations are an important part of eye care even after you've been diagnosed with hyperopia. Although wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses can correct your vision, your prescription can change over time and may need to be updated.
An optometrist or optician can diagnose hyperopia during a routine eye test. They can adjust tests to make them suitable for young children. A standard eye test will generally include the following:
- A visual acuity test. You'll read an eye chart. If you already wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, you'll need to wear them.
- A refraction test. This involves wearing a series of lenses while looking at an eye chart and saying which lens makes the chart look clearer.
- An astigmatism test. A retinoscope shines light into your eye to measure the curvature of the eyeball.
- Tests that check your overall eye health include using an ophthalmoscope (specialist torch) and a slit lamp to examine the back and front of the eye.
- A test to measure the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) as farsightedness increases the risk of a form of glaucoma.
If you need a prescription, it will show three different numbers:
- Spherical – this tells you whether you're short or long-sighted and by how much. A positive number means you're long-sighted. The bigger the number, the stronger the prescription.
- Cylinder – this measures astigmatism in dioptres. A prescription of 1.5 or more generally requires glasses or contact lenses.
- Axis – this explains where on the cornea any astigmatism is located.
Not all children and young adults need treatment for hyperopia. Mild hyperopia is quite common in very young children and can resolve itself by three. Adults over the age of 40 are more likely to need treatment. Corrective lenses are the most common treatment - either glasses or contact lenses.
Refractive errors like hyperopia happen when light doesn't focus correctly on the retina at the back of your eye. This can be due to the shape of the eyeball, the cornea, or the lens of the eye not being able to focus correctly.
People with a family history of refractive errors are more at risk of developing them, but they can happen to anyone.
When to get medical advice
Children and adults should have regular eye tests. Eye exams help look after your eye health and detect a range of common eye conditions that develop without noticeable symptoms.
Children have a vision screening test around four to five years old, usually at school. Regular eye tests are especially important for children who might not be able to describe problems with their sight. Hyperopia is generally easy to treat, and correcting it can prevent problems such as squint (strabismus) and lazy eye (amblyopia).
Living with hyperopia
Most people living with hyperopia manage very well with glasses or contact lenses to correct their eyesight and don't experience complications.
You should have regular eye exams to check your vision and ensure your prescription is up to date. It's common to get presbyopia alongside farsightedness in middle age, and you might need stronger glasses for close work. Find out more about living with refractive errors like hyperopia.