Hyperopia is a term used to describe the condition of being farsighted. The causes of hyperopia are typically genetic and involve an eye that is too short or a cornea that is too flat, so that images focus at a point behind the retina. People with hyperopia can usually see distant objects well, but have trouble focusing on nearby objects.
There are many options available for hyperopia treatment, from traditional corrective lenses to laser-assisted refractive surgery. Based on the degree of your refractive error, your age, your lifestyle, and other factors, your ophthalmologist will help you determine the best course of treatment for your farsightedness.
Glasses and Contact Lenses
Wearing glasses or contact lenses is the most traditional hyperopia treatment and, in many cases, remains a good option for farsighted patients. Unlike other hyperopia treatment options, corrective lenses do not require invasive procedures and are completely adjustable if your prescription changes. They are often ideal for children and teens, as refractive errors tend to change frequently prior to adulthood.
LASIK refractive surgery is a highly popular and successful option for many farsighted people who would rather not have to wear glasses or contact lenses. First, the doctor makes a thin flap on the surface of the cornea. Then, the corneal tissue beneath is carefully reshaped with an excimer laser. Finally, the flap is replaced and the surgery is complete. Recently, technological developments have made it possible to map the tiny peculiarities of each person’s eyes. The individualized map is then used to remove precise amounts of corneal tissue. This procedure is referred to as custom LASIK. There are several advantages of LASIK surgery, including a short healing time, high success rate, and the ability to correct a wider range of refractive errors than other types of surgery. LASIK patients sometimes have side effects such as dry eye, glare, and halos around lights at night. Although LASIK is an effective hyperopia treatment for many, some people will not be good candidates for the surgery, including those without a stable refractive error, pregnant or nursing women, or people with thin corneas.
Another effective hyperopia treatment is PRK, or photorefractive keratectomy. Like LASIK, PRK involves the use of a laser to reshape the cornea; unlike LASIK, the doctor does not create a corneal flap. Instead, the epithelial cells at the outermost layer of the cornea are removed with an alcohol solution. Because there is no flap to cover the cornea while it heals, the healing time with PRK is longer, but it is a good option for those who may not be candidates for LASIK due to thin corneas.
LASEK is a variation of PRK that involves weakening the cornea’s epithelial cells with an alcohol solution and folding them back. The folded layer of cells is similar to the corneal flap made with LASIK, but is much thinner. The laser is then applied to reshape the cornea. Much more of the corneal tissue can be treated this way while the protective qualities of a corneal flap are retained. In rare cases, the epithelial cells may not hold up well enough to be replaced. This is not a serious problem, but it makes the procedure a PRK treatment instead, which may extend healing time. Although the FDA has not yet approved the excimer laser for this particular procedure, LASEK has been shown to be a safe and effective hyperopia treatment.
Similar to LASEK, Epi-LASIK is a newer type of refractive surgery in which an epithelial flap is created with a super-fine blade, instead of an alcohol solution. With Epi-LASIK, the chance of the cells becoming too unstable to be replaced is reduced. This hyperopia treatment is suitable for people with thin corneas as well as those who have a relatively high degree of farsightedness.
Conductive keratoplasty, or CK, is a different type of refractive surgery. Rather than utilizing a laser, which emits light energy, CK uses radiofrequency energy. Another unique characteristic of CK is that it does not involve the removal of any corneal tissue. Instead, an instrument with a tiny probe on the end is placed at specific points around the periphery of the cornea, emitting energy at each point. The treatment causes collagen to contract, shrinking the circumference of the cornea and changing the shape of the curve. If the procedure is done properly, the change in the shape of the cornea will improve refraction in the eye, allowing the patient to see clearly. CK is an effective hyperopia treatment option for patients with mild to moderate degrees of farsightedness.
People who have hyperopia may have trouble seeing objects that are close up. In some cases, they may not recognize that they have a vision problem, but will notice that their eyes become tired or sore during such activities as reading or writing. This is because, for mildly farsighted people, the lens of the eye has a tendency to accommodate for the refractive error. Over time, however, the lens’ ability to adjust diminishes, and people with hyperopia will need treatment to correct their vision.
Causes of Hyperopia
Like myopia, hyperopia is a genetic trait; however, instead of the eye being too long (as in myopia), it is too short, causing images to focus at a point beyond the retina. Though it is not uncommon for hyperopia to be associated with aging, getting older does not cause people to become farsighted. Rather, the aging process hinders the eye’s focusing ability, which can sometimes make pre-existing hyperopia more evident.
If the causes of hyperopia are present in a child’s family, the child has a good chance of inheriting the condition. However, a typical grade-school screening or visual acuity test will usually not be adequate to detect hyperopia. An ophthalmologist, through a comprehensive eye exam, will be able to not only detect problems, but can determine the degree and ideal treatments for those problems as well. Young people with mild hyperopia may not need corrective lenses or any type of treatment while people who are older or are severely farsighted will have a variety of treatment options available to them.
Moderate to Severe Hyperopia
People with hyperopia are considered farsighted because they can generally see objects in the distance more clearly than objects up close. People who are moderately or severely farsighted, however, may have trouble seeing objects at any distance. If the refractive error is bad enough, the lens will not be able to accommodate for it and treatment will become necessary. Children who are severely farsighted have a higher risk for strabismus (crossed eyes) or amblyopia (lazy eye), so they should be examined and treated accordingly.
Degree of Farsighted Vision
Just like myopia, the degree of hyperopia is measured in diopters, which are units of measurement that describe lens strength. Myopic prescriptions have negative numbers and measurements of hyperopia are made with positive numbers. A person with a prescription of +2.0 diopters or less has mild hyperopia. A degree of hyperopia of between +2.0 and +4.0 diopters considered moderate. Someone who is severely farsighted will need a prescription of +4.0 diopters or higher.
Contact an Ophthalmologist for an Eye Exam
Because the causes of hyperopia can be accommodated for, a person with hyperopia can often go years without experiencing any symptoms of the condition. Whether or not you are currently having trouble with your vision, it is important to see an eye doctor regularly to maintain the health of the eyes and to avoid the development of serious problems. Locate an ophthalmologist in your area by searching our directory.