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Farsighted Eyes – What Your Optometrist Should Have Told You About This Confusing Vision Condition
Eye terminology can be very confusing. When your optometrist diagnoses you or your family members with farsightedness, that’s usually the end of the story. Farsightedness can create so many different effects on your vision that it may not even seem like a vision condition. Having farsightedness (farsightedness) usually results in good distance vision, with problems induced by near tasks such as reading and computer work. It’s a bit of a confusing term, as farsightedness is actually an optical error of distance vision, while the symptoms are more common when you use near vision.
To further complicate the situation, if your optometrist finds your eye prescription to be extremely farsighted, you won’t see clearly up close or far. If you are young and have a low or moderate degree of farsightedness, your vision may be clear at all distances. It’s no wonder people have trouble understanding the concept of farsightedness, and why eye doctors often shy away from trying to explain it. Fortunately, there is a muscle called the ciliary muscle that surrounds the lens in the eye and is attached to the lens with small fibers. Active contraction of this muscle loosens the tension on the lens of the eye and increases the focusing power of the eyes. At lower amounts of farsightedness if you are under forty, the focusing ability of the eye can accommodate the farsightedness and clear your vision at both distance and near easily. Eye doctors use the words focus and accommodation interchangeably to mean that the eye muscle has worked to increase the eye’s power for near vision.
Farsightedness has been shown to interfere with reading at even lower amounts in some children and adults, but typically between two and three prescription units it begins to create visually related symptoms. Children and teenagers have an enormous amount of accommodation, and sometimes very large prescriptions for farsightedness go unnoticed because they can clear near and far vision by focusing. They will often suffer from headaches and an unconscious aversion to reading due to eye strain and the constant effort required to keep their vision clear. As we get older we lose the ability to concentrate. This degradation of focus begins between the ages of fifteen and twenty, but affects distances so close at first that we never notice it because we do not use our vision an inch or two away.
People who are farsighted have a different kind of problem than people who are nearsighted. They must constantly focus to keep their distance vision clear, and as objects move closer, they must further intensify their focusing efforts. This isn’t a problem if you’re young and have lower amounts of farsightedness, but as you get older or with greater amounts of farsightedness, the extra effort you put in starts to become noticeable. This happens with reading and computer use initially, because of the added effort of focusing on top of the amount needed for distance. High-tech areas like northern Colorado have a larger percentage of the population using computers all day, and optometrists see more symptoms of farsightedness. Uncorrected farsightedness can be an important component of computer vision syndrome. Eye patients will often be prescribed glasses or contact lenses for near work that only correct farsightedness. This reduces the amount of focus required to near-normal levels. The remaining normal effort of reading or working on a computer rarely creates visual discomfort. This is another reason your optometrist may not communicate much about your farsightedness. It’s hard for them to explain why a distance prescription is recommended when you only have near problems.
As forward-thinking optometry patients enter their forties, they find that they have gradually started wearing glasses all the time. Many people mistakenly believe that wearing glasses has made their eyes weaker, and sometimes feel that their eye doctor has made them dependent on the lenses. This is an incorrect assumption, as the loss of accommodation would have occurred without wearing glasses and would have been a problem at an earlier age in the absence of corrective eye wear. This loss of focusing power is a visual condition specified as presbyopia, which patients often confuse with farsightedness. Although it progresses from an early age as explained before, it is only diagnosed when it reduces the ability to focus so that one cannot see at about sixteen inches, the average reading distance.
Optically, the farsighted eye is usually too short and light is focused behind it instead of the retina for distance. There may also be individual components of the eye that are too weak to focus vision properly. The lens could be a little short in power, or the clear tissue of the cornea at the front of the eye could be curved a little less than normal. A lens with positive or positive power is used to correct farsightedness. This is a lens that is thicker in the middle and thinner at the edges, like a biconvex lens. The best optical design for clear central and peripheral vision is a lens that is more curved in the front and still curved forward in the back, just to a lesser degree. This results in a lens with a center that is relatively far from the front of the eye, with a bulging appearance.
As you move an ophthalmic lens used for farsightedness away from the eye, the eye appears larger, similar to the effect produced by moving a magnifying glass away from an object. This also increases the size of the image seen by the eye. Advanced optical designs have eliminated the resulting type of bug eye appearance by using aspherical lens designs. Aspherical lenses start with a spherical lens front surface in the center (like the curve of a tennis ball) and then the curvature gradually decreases or flattens towards the edge of the lens. This is the traditional design that has a spherical curvature on the back surface of the lens. New emerging freeform lens technology allows aspheric lens curves to meet on the back surface of a lens. These lenses are very sophisticated designs that use different degrees of asphericity on different tangential lines to compensate for astigmatism in their prescription.
Either way, the flattened lens design allows the lenses to sit closer to the eyes, reducing magnification or the bug eye effect. The aspherical design of the optics’ complex quirks also counteracts various forms of optical aberrations (blurred vision) that normally occur when looking next to a spherical lens with a flatter lens design. A common misconception is that aspherical lenses improve vision. They do not significantly improve vision, but allow for a thinner, lighter, and more aesthetically appealing lens with less magnification. The aspherical design allows these improvements to be achieved without compromising clear peripheral vision. The lenses available to your eye doctor have undergone quantum advances in the last five years, probably equivalent to all the advances made in the previous fifty years. Improvements in lens design are beginning to resemble computer chips that double in capacity every eighteen months. The future of lenses has never looked brighter!
Some facts about prescient eyes:
- Some people are farsighted in one eye and nearsighted in the other. If the amounts are correct, they can see near and far without bifocals.
- President James Buchannan was farsighted in one eye and nearsighted in the other (and had an eye twitch).
- President Harry Truman was farsighted.
- Latent farsightedness occurs when a child has compensated with a sustained distance focus for so long that they cannot relax their eyes for actual reading of the prescription. Only checking the eyeglass prescription after special eye drops have removed the eyes’ ability to focus can produce an accurate prescription reading.
- Ohio State University has started a study to see if providing prescriptions that aren’t strong enough for babies with farsightedness will help their eyes correct themselves.
- Eyes tend to be a little more far-sighted (or less short-sighted) between the ages of forty and fifty.
- Young and middle-aged men can develop fluid swelling in the central retina and become farsighted as a direct result of stress.
- Farsighted children often have farsighted brothers and sisters, but not necessarily parents with the eye disease.
- About one in four people have farsightedness, but the number is slowly decreasing as myopia increases in prevalence.
Contact lenses can be very helpful in correcting farsighted eyes for a number of reasons. Unlike glasses that move away from the eye, contact lenses sit right on the surface of the eye and therefore provide very little magnifying effect. When you wear contact lenses you are always looking through the optical center of the lens, which is the maximized point for good vision. This is because the contact lenses move with your eye when you look to the sides. With glasses, you look at the lens at an angle when you turn your eyes, and this creates optical aberrations that degrade your vision. These advantages often make contact lenses the primary choice for corrective eye wear for greater amounts of farsightedness in children and adolescents. This is often an age where your appearance is very important to your self-esteem. Who doesn’t want to look their best, especially when the old alternative was magnified bug-eye lenses that weighed a ton and slid down your nose constantly.
Vision tests have value in detecting eye prescription problems, but they often miss farsightedness because children have a great ability to focus and pass the 20/20 test. Only a thorough eye exam by your eye doctor can ensure that your children and teens have the correct eye prescription for efficient reading and learning at school. Schedule them today for an annual eye exam. And don’t forget the new options you have as a forward-thinking adult.
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