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Farsightedness – More Common Than You Think

August 7, 2014


Myopia, or nearsightedness, is one of the most common eye ailments in the world, affecting almost 1.6 billion people. However, the opposite problem, farsightedness, sometimes is overlooked when discussing vision problems. Farsightedness is exactly what it sounds like; the ability to see things far away relatively clearly while nearby objects may be blurry. Farsightedness is somewhat different from nearsightedness in that it is usually present at birth and tends to run in families. Hyperopia, as it is also known, often starts in early childhood, but normal growth corrects the problem. If a child is slightly farsighted when the eye stops growing, the eye can usually adjust to make up for the problem.

However, as we age our eyes lose some of their ability to adjust. Starting around age 40, our eyes naturally begin to lose the ability to focus on close objects. As this gets worse, you may begin to notice some of the symptoms of farsightedness.

These symptoms generally fall into a few categories:

  • Nearby objects may appear blurry.
  • Eyestrain, including itching or burning eyes. The need to squint to see clearly.
  • Eye discomfort or headache after doing close tasks like reading, writing, or computer work.

These symptoms are caused when the light entering your eye is not refracted properly. In a normal eye, the light enters the eye and is refracted through the cornea and lens to present a sharply focused image directly on the retina on the back of your eye. However, if the cornea or lens are not perfectly smooth, the light is not refracted correctly, and this causes a refractive error. There are different types of refractive errors, but farsightedness occurs when the cornea is curved too little and light focuses behind your retina, causing nearby objects to take on a blurry appearance. Conversely, in nearsightedness, it is curved too much, causing light to focus in front of the retina.

Untreated farsightedness can result in a lower quality of life, eyestrain and headaches, and possibly even crossed eyes in some children. The most common treatment for farsightedness is corrective lenses in the form of glasses or contacts, but there are also options for surgical corrections. These surgical procedures reshape the cornea, allowing light to refract onto the retina in a normal manner. The most popular of theses options in young patients is LASIK laser eye surgery, which stands for Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. The eye surgeon performing the procedure uses either a mechanical microkeratome (blade device) or laser keratome (laser device) to cut or separate a flap of tissue on the patient’s cornea. This flap is lifted and folded back. A laser is then used to reshape the cornea by removing or ablating tissue beneath the flap. This reshaping of the cornea allows light to focus more precisely on the retina, resulting in improved vision.

In older patients wearing bifocals, Refractive Lens Exchange (RLE) or LASIK Assisted Clear Lensectoy (LACL) may be a better option. Here the natural lens in the eye is replaced with a multifocal intraocular lens implant (IOL), allowing the patient to see both near and far without glasses.

Farsightedness is a common, and usually very manageable eye problem. For most, glasses or contacts will take care of the issue, but surgery may be a better option for some. Contact us today if you would like more information on laser eye surgery for yourself or a loved one.

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