You’ve likely heard the words nearsighted and farsighted in conversation, at an eye exam, or on TV or film. They’re both a type of refractive error, the most common type of vision condition people can have. You may have also heard them by another name; nearsightedness is also known as myopia, while hyperopia refers to farsightedness.
They both affect how you see but at different distances. Myopia is when nearby objects are clear while faraway objects appear blurry. Hyperopia is the opposite: distant objects are clear, but nearby objects appear blurry. Myopia is more common than hyperopia, occurring in 30% of Americans, while hyperopia only occurs in 5–10%.
What Is Myopia?
Myopia is a refractive error with 2 typical causes. The eye has grown too long, becoming more of an oval than a sphere, or the cornea is too curved. The cornea is the clear dome at the front of your eye. It works with the lens to bend (refract) light onto the retina at the back of the eye.
If either of these irregularities occurs in your eye, it can result in the light rays not converging correctly on the retina. Instead, the light rays converge in front of the retina. This results in nearby objects remaining clear while faraway objects are blurry.
Myopia typically starts during early childhood and can progress until your child becomes an adult. If diagnosed early enough, your optometrist can offer myopia control options that may help slow myopia’s progression.
If myopia is allowed to progress into high myopia, it could result in severe eye issues such as:
- Retinal detachment
Causes & Risk Factors for Myopia
Children of nearsighted people have a greater chance of being nearsighted themselves. However, it’s possible to develop myopia even if your parents don’t have it. Many factors are involved in the development of nearsightedness.
Some factors that could increase your child’s risk of developing myopia include:
- Family history of myopia
- Not enough time outdoors in natural light
- Too much screen time
What Is Hyperopia?
Hyperopia can be considered the opposite of myopia. It occurs when the eye is too short or the cornea is too flat. This irregularity causes the light rays to converge behind the retina, making near objects appear blurry while faraway objects remain clear.
While hyperopia is generally less common than myopia, most children are farsighted when they’re born. Many of these children won’t have any symptoms due to how flexible the lens is in a child’s eye. Instead, their eyes can change focus between distances easier. Children’s eyes will naturally grow long as they age, and mild farsightedness can be reduced or eliminated.
A child with even mild farsightedness should still see an optometrist. If farsightedness worsens, it can lead to other eye conditions, such as lazy eye or vision loss.
Causes & Risk Factors for Hyperopia
Experts aren’t certain of the exact causes of hyperopia. However, it seems that your genetics play a part. If your parents have hyperopia, you may have a higher risk of developing it.
Environmental factors could be a factor in developing farsightedness, but they haven’t been well-studied.
Shared Symptoms of Myopia & Hyperopia
Despite their differences, myopia and hyperopia share many of the same symptoms. These include:
- Blurry vision (though at different distances)
Both of these conditions tend to first present in childhood. It can be challenging for children to notice if there’s something wrong with their vision since it’s the only vision they’ve ever known. You should keep an eye out for signs that your child is dealing with eye irritation or can’t seem to see things correctly.
Treating Myopia & Hyperopia
There is no cure for myopia or hyperopia, though the symptoms can be corrected or controlled through a few different methods.
Myopia progresses throughout childhood, typically stopping once your child becomes an adult. Your optometrist can offer methods that may slow this progression, preserving what remains of your child’s distance vision. There is no version of this for farsightedness, as progressive hyperopia only happens on rare occasions.
Eyeglasses & Contact Lenses
For millions of Americans, eyeglasses and contact lenses are a popular way of correcting vision issues. You can visit your eye doctors to get a prescription for eyeglasses and to be fitted for contact lenses. These options will help focus light on the retina so you can see clearly.
You can typically tell what lenses are used for by looking closely at them. Lenses for myopia are thinnest in the center (concave), while lenses to correct hyperopia are thickest in the center (convex).
Laser Eye Surgery
Depending on the type of refractive error, laser eye surgery can help some adults correct their vision. This surgery uses lasers to gently reshape the cornea, adjusting how light travels through the eye. Your eye doctor might suggest refractive lens exchange (RLE) for people with extreme hyperopia since LASIK may not be suitable.
Uncovering Your Vision Concerns
Myopia and hyperopia can both be diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam and usually first appear in children. This is why annual check-ups are essential for school-age kids. However, it’s still vital for you as an adult to understand how refractive errors can affect your vision.
Eye health shouldn’t be a mystery, and Charles Korth Optometry is here to answer your questions. When you’re ready for your next eye exam or have questions about your vision, schedule an appointment with us!