Does it seem that, no matter how hard they try, your child is constantly below grade level in reading? Do they constantly complain about headaches and tired or sore eyes after spending time doing close-up activities such as writing or working on a computer? They may have hyperopia, also known as farsightedness.
If it goes undiagnosed, hyperopia can significantly harm a child’s school performance, make extra-curricular activities more difficult, and generally reduce their quality of life.
Want to know more about this common vision problem, how you can recognize it and how you can help your child if they have it? Our eye doctors have many years of experience treating hyperopia and share some of their many insights below. Take a look!
What Is Hyperopia and What Causes It?
Hyperopia (farsightedness) is a common condition that affects people of all ages. In a healthy eye, light and other visual information enters through the lens and pupil, and is focused on the back of the eye, known as the retina.
With hyperopia, however, the eye is shaped differently, causing the light that enters the eye to focus too far back, beyond the retina. This results in near objects appearing blurry, while further-away objects appear clearer.
Hyperopia occurs when one of the following issues are present:
- The cornea is less curved than normal
- The eyeball is shorter than normal
- The lens is thinner than normal
It is largely a condition inherited from one's parents, but can also be caused by issues with development before birth and in early childhood.
Symptoms of Hyperopia in Children
Often, hyperopia goes undetected in children, because children are really good at focusing their eyes to compensate for their farsightedness. In many cases, this is done subconsciously, and the child never notices their blurry vision. Nonetheless, hyperopia can still cause eye strain, fatigue, and headaches after activities like reading, writing or using a computer.
If your child has a severe case of hyperopia, they are likely to find it hard to see clearly at any distance. This is because the muscles in and around the eye constantly need to refocus, causing eye strain and fatigue that harms both near and distance vision.
Signs and symptoms that may signal your child is farsighted include:
- Viewing books, mobile phones, computer screens or tablets by holding them at arm’s length.
- Difficulties with reading, learning, or paying attention at school or during extracurricular activities.
- The constant need to squint to keep images and objects in focus, especially close up.
- Regular complaints that images or objects appear blurry at close distance, while distance vision remains clear.
- Headaches or fatigue after near vision activities, such as reading, writing, or computer use.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hyperopia
Though hyperopia can’t be prevented altogether, regular eye exams can help diagnose it early, preventing issues with learning and other problems that can severely harm your child’s quality of life.
To best help your child, your eye doctor will need to determine their level of farsightedness using equipment such as a retinoscope to detect refractive errors, and a phoropter to measure the precise level of the refractive errors once identified.
They’ll then determine how best to provide your child with the clearest, most comfortable vision.
There are many options for how best to accomplish this. The most popular ones include:
Glasses are by far the most common treatment for hyperopia in children.
Your child’s level of hyperopia will determine how often and for how long they need to wear their glasses each day. Those with more severe hyperopia will need to wear their glasses full time, while those with a minor case of hyperopia may not need glasses at all except when they are reading, writing, or doing other types of near work.
2. Bifocal/Multifocal Glasses
Usually reserved for adults with presbyopia, these glasses contain two or more lenses of different strengths, for both near and far vision. They are helpful for children who have difficulties with visual focusing due to severe hyperopia.
3. Contact Lenses
Contact lenses are usually reserved for older children, who can take responsibility for the proper storage and cleaning of their lenses. Multifocal contact lenses offer clear vision at all distances and a wider field of view than glasses are able to offer.
Q&A With Our Optometrist
Are hyperopia and presbyopia the same?
No. Though they both make it difficult to see objects close-up, they are two completely different types of refractive error. Hyperopia occurs as a result of the eye being too short, or issues with the lens or cornea of the eye. It causes images to be blurry close-up, while objects further away remain in focus. By contrast, presbyopia occurs when the lens of the eye begins to calcify, making it harder and less flexible. This causes vision issues at all distances, as the lens has a hard time accommodating from distance to near vision and back again.
What kinds of lenses help treat hyperopia?
In order to move light forward in the eye so that it focuses properly on the retina, lenses for farsightedness are convex. This means the lens curves outward, and the prescription is expressed in positive numbers. For example, a lens for minor hyperopia might be written as +0.50, whereas more extreme hyperopia might be +6.00. You may also consider high-index aspheric lenses, which are thinner and lighter than traditional lenses for farsightedness, and reduce the “bug-eyed” look that can sometimes be caused by higher prescriptions.