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Hyperopia otherwise known as Hypermetropia or long-sightedness is an eye condition which primarily affects adults over 40 but can affect people of all ages, including children. Hyperopia means that the patient struggles to focus on close up objects but may be better able to see objects in the distance; however some patients are unable to focus on objects at any distance.
This is a cross section of an eye, the left image shows an eye with hyperopia which is untreated, and the right image shows how prescription lenses work to correct long-sightedness.
In the left image you can see the lines representing rays of light are focused behind the back of the eye, and therefore not directly on the light-sensitive tissue known as the retina. This causes blurred vision and means the patient cannot focus on objects close up, often leading to headaches, discomfort and eye strain. In the right image the prescription lens works by focusing this light on the correct area of the eye helping the patient see clearly.
Hyperopia occurs when the eye is unable to focus the light correctly on the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye known as the retina. Instead of focusing the light directly on to the retina it focuses slightly behind it, causing blurred vision.
This may be because the eyeball is too short and so does not allow enough distance for the light to focus correctly. It can also be caused by the cornea, which is the transparent layer at the front of the eye, being too flat to direct the light correctly. It may also be caused by the lens in the eye being unable to focus the light in the correct place due to either being the wrong shape or not flexible enough to adjust.
Hyperopia is not usually a sign of any other underlying condition and is quite common. It may be caused by genes inherited from your parents or as a result of age as the lenses in your eyes become stiffer and less able to focus.
The only way to confirm if you have hyperopia is by having an eye test with your optician, who will then provide you with a glasses prescription if necessary. Common symptoms of hyperopia include blurry vision, headaches and eye strain, and in cases of hyperopia in both eyes you may struggle with depth perception. Some patients with hyperopia may be able to see distance objects, while others are unable to see clearly at any distance.
If you experience any difficulties with your vision or any of these symptoms it is best to get an eye test to check if you need treatment. Children may not have obvious issues when they are long-sighted but if it is left untreated may develop other problems such as a squint or lazy eye.
The most common treatment for hyperopia is prescription glasses or contact lenses although artificial lens implants and laser surgery are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, a total of around 100,000 people, with various eye conditions, in the UK undergo laser surgery each year.
Once you have had your eye test with an optician they should give you a copy of your prescription to take away which, unless otherwise specified and tested, will be for glasses only. This can then be used to order glasses online as it gives you your unique specifications to ensure the lenses are made exactly to your needs.
The thickness and weight of your lenses will vary based on the strength of your prescription which indicates whether you have mild or severe hyperopia. This can be reduced by purchasing thinner lenses, otherwise known as high index lenses, which allows your lenses to fit more easily into the frame and reducing the weight on your nose.
Help with the cost of glasses may be available through NHS vouchers if you are eligible, for more information see the NHS website.
Glasses start from ₴250
If you would like to try contact lenses you will need to book a consultation for this with your optician separately, which also requires a valid eye test. Once you have had your consultation you should be provided with your prescription for contact lenses only, including a recommended lens type or brand, which can be used at any retailer including online.
Some people prefer contact lenses as they are more lightweight and are almost invisible, while others find them more difficult to use than glasses. Contact lenses can be a great option but require more care and attention to lens hygiene.
Help with the cost of contact lenses may be available through NHS vouchers if you are eligible, for more information see the NHS website. Contact lenses start from ₴226.02 per month for monthly lenses or ₴707.53 for a month’s supply of daily disposable lenses.
Cataracts are common in older people and mean the patient cannot have laser surgery; in this case an alternative is to have artificial lenses implanted in the eye and the original lens removed. This means a multifocal lens replaces the natural lens in the eye which can be a suitable alternative for those with cataracts who would not be suitable for laser surgery.
A newer method of treating conditions like hyperopia is laser surgery which is when lasers are used to burn away small parts of the cornea and reshape its curvature. This means the light is focused better on the retina at the back of the eye. The most commonly used method for hyperopia is laser in situ keratectomy (LASIK) which can only be carried out if the cornea is thick enough, curvature of the cornea is not too steep, and the surface of your eye is healthy. LASIK is when the surgeon cuts across the cornea, raises a flap of tissue and reshapes the cornea before replacing the tissue. This is the most popular method in the UK and can be used for both hyperopia and myopia (short-sightedness) and has been used since the mid 1990s.
The procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic in around 30 minutes, and often you can be back to normal the following day. The results are usually good and 9 out of 10 people report a significant improvement in their vision, although it may not be possible to completely cure your hyperopia. It is also important to note that laser surgery may not be able to correct your vision as well as corrective lenses, and glasses or contact lenses may be required for some activities.
Laser surgery is not typically available on the NHS unless the patient is at risk of losing their vision without this treatment. As hyperopia can be treated with other methods available through the NHS laser surgery is unlikely to be covered, and can cost approximately £800 - £2,500 per eye.
Contact lenses are very low risk, but it is important to maintain a high level of lens and personal hygiene, disinfect reusable lenses thoroughly and avoid sleeping with them in due to the risk of infection. Contact lenses also increase your risk of eye infection as it is easier for your eye to come into contact with bacteria, it is important to be aware of this and to have regular check-ups with your optician.
Laser surgery does have some risks and side effects, more common side effects include dry eyes or a haze around bright lights. Most of these are easily treatable and pass within a few months after the procedure. There is a small risk of the cornea becoming scarred or infected, which may threaten your vision, but these problems are rare and can be treated with corneal transplantation when necessary.