You’ve probably heard the terms farsighted and nearsighted before (especially if you use eyeglasses or contact lenses), but it can be hard at times to remember which is which! What is the difference between farsighted and nearsighted, and what causes both of these common eye issues?
Farsighted: Trouble Seeing Up Close
Farsightedness is a condition where it is more difficult to focus on things that are close to you, but easier to see things that are in the distance.
Being farsighted can make it difficult to read, watch television, or interact with everyday devices that use text or icons, such as cell phones or appliances.
While mild cases may not have much of an impact on your life at all, you may still experience headaches when reading or doing other things that require looking at things closely. In fact, you may notice the symptoms of farsightedness long before you even notice that you have difficulty focusing on things up close. In addition to headaches, those symptoms can also include a sense of mild pain, burning, or aching around the eyes, as well as repeated squinting.
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of the above symptoms, be sure to head in for an examination by your eye doctor. Farsightedness is quite common and generally simple to treat, most often with prescription lenses. It's important to seek a diagnosis because, if left untreated, eyesight does tend to deteriorate. For example, children who have farsightedness are more likely to develop strabismus, or crossed eyes, if they go untreated.
The technical name for farsightedness is called hyperopia. If you suspect you may have this condition, try a simple home test. Rest your eyes by turning away from any screens for a few moments. Then, try reading a book for a bit. If you develop a headache or just notice that the words are too blurry to comfortably read, you may want to call your eye care provider.
Nearsighted: Trouble Seeing Far Away
Nearsighted people can focus on things that are close but have a hard time focusing on items that are in the distance. Nearsightedness is essentially the opposite of farsightedness. This condition can make it difficult to read signs, follow a presentation, or read text on a whiteboard in class, for instance.
Noticeable difficulty in focusing on and viewing things in the distance is the most common and obvious symptom of nearsightedness. However, there are a few other clues that may alert you to this extremely common eye condition. With constant use of your eyes throughout each day, the extra strain caused by nearsightedness can also lead to pronounced fatigue, soreness, constant squinting, and recurring headaches.
There are a few risk factors associated with nearsightedness. For one, our modern technology plays a major part, as frequent and prolonged use of computer, smartphone, and e-reader screens has been attributed to the development of nearsightedness. However, most diagnosis occurs at a young age when children’s eyes are still under rapid development. If you were diagnosed as a child, you are very likely to still be nearsighted as an adult. Health conditions such as diabetes can also play a part in this eyesight condition.
If you notice that you can’t quite determine the words or images on a sign several feet away from you, consider looking into it with an eye exam. You may be nearsighted. Even a mild case deserves to be treated, especially considering how simple managing the condition with glasses or contacts can be. About 40% of people are nearsighted, and the condition is called myopia in the medical field.
Neither of these conditions are considered to be eye diseases per se but are technically known as refraction errors.
What is a Refraction Error (and What Causes It)?
The shape of your eye, and sometimes the “steepness” of your cornea as well, has an impact on where the light is focused in relation to your retina. When the light is focused too far in front of or too far past your retina, your vision is affected.
When you are farsighted, the light is focused too far behind your retina due to the shape of your eye being too short. If this condition is really pronounced, you may even find yourself being both farsighted and nearsighted!
When you are nearsighted, the light is focused too far in front of your retina, as opposed to being focused on the retina directly. This situation is usually caused by an elongated eyeball shape. Both conditions are easily managed with the help of your trusted eye care provider.
Can You Prevent Refraction Errors?
Both nearsightedness and farsightedness can be genetically inherited. However, there are a few simple precautions you can take to help lessen the likelihood of developing a visual impairment. As a bonus, these practices are beneficial to your health in a variety of other ways, too!
First off, make sure you eat a healthy and varied diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and omega-3 rich foods like certain fish. Second, make sure to get regular, moderate exercise to help decrease other risk factors such as diseases that can affect your eyesight. Third, do not smoke and limit your consumption of alcohol.
More specifically related to your eyes, be sure to wear eye protection during contact sports and heavy chores with power tools. Eye protection also means wearing sunglasses! Protect those peepers from harmful rays of the sun, just as you should with your skin.
Finally, be sure to give your eyes frequent breaks from strain. Take periodic breaks from staring at that computer or phone. Set a reminder if you need to, and take a nap, stretch, gaze off in space, or look out a window for a moment. Your eyes will thank you.
How are Farsighted and Nearsightedness Treated?
In most circumstances, both nearsightedness and farsightedness can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. If your refraction error is stable (usually upon entering adulthood) surgical interventions such as LASIK or PRK (Photorefractive keratectomy) are often viable options. Keep in mind that not all individuals make good candidates for surgical corrections. Children and pregnant women, for example, will typically need to forgo laser eye surgery and stick to contacts or prescription eyeglasses.
If you are experiencing vision problems and would like to assess your options, or maybe you’d like to explore a different way to approach your refraction errors, schedule your appointment today!