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Hyperopia

What is Hyperopia?

Hyperopia, also called long-sightedness or far-sightedness, is the most common eye condition in Australia. Long-sighted people can see distant objects clearly, but close objects are difficult to see.

Close up objects

People with far-sightedness, who struggle to see nearby objects, are usually born with it, and it tends to run in families.

The condition can easily be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Surgery is also a treatment option.

It is important to not confuse hyperopia with presbyopia which affects people as they age. Presbyopia has similar symptoms as hyperopia but doesn’t appear until people are in their 40s.

Causes of hyperopia

The size and shape of the eye largely causes far-sightedness. Your eye is about the size of a ping pong ball. At the front is a clear dome called the cornea. 

The cornea is like clear glass, providing a small window to view the world through. Just on the inside of your eye is the lens, also clear, and about the size of an M&M.

When light goes into the eye, the lens works like a movie projector and focuses light rays on the back of the eye (the retina). 

The retina changes it into nerve signals so the brain can understand what you are seeing. This process is called ‘refraction.’

If you have normal vision, the rays of light are brought into focus right on the retina. However, if you are long-sighted, the cornea is not sufficiently curved or the eye is too short, so the light rays from close objects focus behind, rather than on, the retina – making things appear blurry.

Symptoms of hyperopia

The most common symptoms of far-sightedness are:

  • Trouble seeing things up close 
  • Squinting, blinking and frequent eye-rubbing
  • Eye strain (tired or sore or sore eyes)
  • Headaches – especially when reading

Often, young children don’t realise they have poor vision, so a child might not say that they cannot see well. 

Parents should be particularly attentive to certain symptoms – which are not usually associated with vision – such as underachievement at school or disinterest/frustration with books and reading.

What to expect at the optometrist

A diagnosis of hyperopia (far-sightedness) can be made with a routine eye exam by your eye doctor (optometrist). 

Your eye doctor will ask some questions about your eyesight to determine whether you have hyperopia. They will perform an eye test and do an investigation using equipment such as a retinoscope and a slit lamp.

The retinoscope is a hand-held device used to shine a light into the eye and observe the reflection of light off the retina. 

The slit lamp is a special microscope that gives the optometrist a more detailed view of the structures at the front and inside the eye. 

These exams are painless and cause no discomfort or pain to the patient. 

Following these procedures, the optometrist will be able to diagnose hyperopia, rule out any other conditions and discuss management and treatment options. 

Hyperopia treatment

The most common treatment for hyperopia is glasses with corrective lenses, especially for reading and other near work. 

Glasses treat far-sightedness by making up for the decreased curvature of your cornea or the smaller size (length) of your eye.

Another option for treating far-sightedness is refractive surgery, which corrects the condition by reshaping the curvature of your cornea. However, an eye specialist will likely advise their patients to wait until adulthood for laser eye surgery.

Just like many other organs in the body, a child’s eyes continually change shape and adjust as they grow – even in their teens. 

A child who underwent laser eye surgery may experience a temporary improvement in their vision after the procedure but, as their eyes continue to change, this improvement would be lost, and they would need further corrective surgery in the future. 

Adults have lenses that have fully matured, which is why it may be suitable for them, but not recommended for children. 

Eye examination

Because children often don’t know they have vision problems or that something is wrong with their vision, it’s recommended that all children should have an eye examination before starting school.

An examination of your child’s eyes by a pediatrician or a family GP is not a substitute for an eye exam performed by an optometrist. 

Only optometrists have the training and clinical tools to perform a thorough evaluation of your child’s eyes and vision.

Contact your local Eyecare Plus optometrist to arrange a comprehensive eye test.

It is important to have a regular eye exam. The earlier an eye condition can be identified, the better the child will be set up for a fulfilling educational experience at school.

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