What is Hyperopia?
Let’s face it; optics is a pretty niche subject, and as such, many of the terms and principles in optics can be confusing and contrary to what we’ve been traditionally taught.
Essentially, the vast majority of humans fall into either the long-sighted (hyperopia) or short-sighted (myopia) camps. This is because our visual status is determined by the length of our eyeballs, and very few people have geometrically perfectly-lengthed eyeballs. Therefore, our eyes tend to be either a little (or a lot) too long or short. It’s this discrepancy in the length of our eyes that determines whether we are long or short sighted.
Here's a quick guide on what is hyperopia, also known as long-sightedness.
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What is the difference between myopia and hyperopia?
Myopia (or nearsightedness) occurs when the eye develops to be structurally longer than average (a long axial length), resulting in blurry vision when looking further away, whilst hyperopia (or farsightedness) occurs when the eye develops to be structurally shorter than average, resulting in trouble focussing at any distance, tired and often achy eyes.
All normal-eyed babies are born with hyperopia
If we imagine a new born baby as an example. Every part of a new born baby is small, including their eyeballs. The smaller the eye-length, the more long-sighted the individual is, therefore, all normal newborns have incredibly long-sighted eyes (due to them being so small). The idea is, that as the child grows, as do their eyes, and they become less long-sighted as they grow, until eventually the eyes reach the “perfect” length, and then they’re neither long or short-sighted. Very few of us humans are “perfect” in any way, and as such, very few people have neither long or short-sightedness. And so, we tend to fall on either side of “perfect”, and will develop either some long or short-sightedness depending on how our eyeballs develop.
What is hyperopia caused by?
Long-sightedness (hyperopia) occurs when the eyeball is too short from front to back. This means that instead of light entering your pupil and focusing on your retina, it instead focuses at a point behind your retina.
What are the symptoms of hyperopia?
Short eyeballs cause the eye to have focusing issues. This is because the eye is in a state of constantly over-focusing, and working too hard to try to bring the point of focus from behind the retina, onto the retina. This is often not achievable without the help of corrective spectacles, but the eye will try! This can result in tired, achy eyes, and sometimes headaches if a long-sighted person isn’t wearing their glasses. The younger the individual, the more powerful their eyes are, and the more able they are to exert focusing effort to bring the point of focus from behind the retina, onto the retina, without any over-focusing symptoms of tired, achy eyes. However, once we move into adulthood, our focusing abilities become less powerful, and we are less able to exert the focusing power required to pull the focus from behind our retinas onto our retinas, and we can find vision at any distance becoming blurry, and our eyes feeling tired and strained, and even develop headaches. These symptoms can be amplified by carrying out tasks at any distance which require more concentration e.g. watching TV, reading a book, driving, or playing video games.
Therefore, younger people with hyperopia (long-sightedness) may find that they see really well at all distances (as their powerful eyes can overcome the hyperopia they have), however the focusing power they have to exert to achieve good vision leaves them with strained, achy eyes and sometimes headaches. Oftentimes long-sightedness has much less to do with vision, and much more to do with how comfortable the eyes feel.
To summarise, hyperopia means that without the correct spectacles on, our eyes are constantly over-focusing. This can cause vision at any distance to be blurry at times, or not blurry at all, but our eyes can be tired and strained.
Did you know that you can check your vision using the Eyebou iOS app? It's simple to use and only takes 5 minutes to complete. All you need is an iPhone and 2 meters of space!
Is there treatment for Hyperopia?
Unwanted symptoms of hyperopia are dispelled by wearing glasses and/or contact lenses, which re-focus light onto the right spot on our retinas. This relieves strain on our visual systems and allows us to see clearly. If you are short-sighted, and choose not to wear your glasses, you will limit your ability to see further away, however if you’re long-sighted and choose not to wear glasses, depending on your age, you may experience focusing issues and eyestrain which could lead to headaches.
It’s important to remember that regular spectacles cannot improve or worsen your prescription i.e. they cannot shrink or elongate your eyes! They merely allow you to see to the best of your ability, and relieve any potential strain on your eyes.
This article was written by Mai Monavar, Eyebou's lead optometrist.