Hyperopia and Myopia: Signs, Symptoms, and Treatment
Hyperopia (farsightedness) and myopia (nearsightedness) are two of the most common vision problems in the world. These conditions are caused by refractive errors in the eye, which affect the eye’s ability to focus light directly on the retina. In a perfectly healthy eye, the cornea and lens collaborate to refract light and focus it directly onto the retina. The retina then conveys visual information to the optic nerve, which takes it to the brain. In both hyperopia and myopia, the shape of the cornea and the eyeball result in light focusing either beyond the retina (hyperopia) or in front of it (myopia) rather than directly onto the retina.
Signs and Symptoms for Hyperopia and Myopia
Myopia is the most common vision condition for individuals under the age of 40. Perhaps, in part, due to factors such as the increase in screen time, this diagnosis is becoming even more common—especially in kids. In 2000, about a quarter of the global population was nearsighted. Experts estimate that half the world’s population will be myopic by 2050.
For most patients with myopia, the symptoms begin in childhood. Kids with parents who are nearsighted are statistically more at risk to be myopic themselves.
Individuals with myopia will struggle to see things that are far away (such as road signs, whiteboards or chalkboards, and other distant objects) but won’t have trouble with close-up vision (of computer screens, phone screens, or books). Far-off objects may appear blurry and indistinct. Other symptoms include eye strain, headaches, and sometimes even fatigue during activities such as driving or playing sports. If you notice that your child tends to squint a lot when trying to see or read far-off objects or signs, it may be an indicator of nearsightedness.
Hyperopia is significantly less common than myopia. The National Eye Institute estimates that 5-10 percent of Americans are farsighted—still a large number, but nowhere near the growing number of myopic individuals. Someone with hyperopia will have the opposite symptoms of myopia: he or she will be able to see far-off objects clearly but will struggle to see or read anything up close. Words in a book or on a screen may appear blurry and indistinct, and the individual may experience a burning sensation around the eyes or a dull headache after trying to read for a significant period.
In children, undiagnosed hyperopia may manifest as regular squinting during reading activities or even crossed eyes. Hyperopia is more likely to go undiagnosed in children than myopia because most school vision tests only require kids to identify letters or symbols on a chart from far away. As a result, parents sometimes don’t realize that their child is farsighted until the issue turns into trouble with his or her academic performance.
Treatment for Hyperopia and Myopia
The most common treatments for myopia and hyperopia are eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery. Surgery is not an option for younger patients, and even for adults, glasses and contact lenses are typically the go-to treatments for these conditions.
Specialty contact lenses can be particularly useful for treating nearsightedness and farsightedness. Orthokeratology lenses (or ortho-K lenses) are a powerful way to treat these conditions. Worn overnight, ortho-K lenses gently and temporarily reshape the surface of the eye. This reshaping can help correct the way light focuses on the retina. In the morning, the patient can remove his or her lenses and enjoy clear, unassisted vision throughout the day.
Ortho-K lenses are especially useful for treating myopia in kids and teenagers. Nearsightedness is a progressive disease, with the most substantial progressions taking place during youth. Since surgery is not an option for these younger patients, it is vital to have a plan in place to slow or stop the progression of myopia during childhood. Over the years, orthokeratology has proven an effective method for slowing the progression of myopia.
The most reliable treatment for myopia or hyperopia will depend on the degree and severity of the refractive error. At Miami Contact Lens Institute, we can work with you to determine the right treatment for your case. To schedule a consultation, call our offices today.