The American Optometric Association reports that nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population is affected by nearsightedness and about 60 percent of Americans are affected by farsightedness. However, with only 75 percent of adults using either glasses or contact lenses to correct their vision conditions, approximately 15 percent of individuals dealing with eyesight issues are lacking corrective treatment.
Perhaps the leading reason behind adults not seeking appropriate treatment for these vision problems is the confusion regarding the differences between nearsightedness and farsightedness. In order to fully understand what each of these conditions are and how they affect eyesight, it’s important to gain a clear understanding of each.
Many people assume nearsightedness means the inability to see things close to you. Contrary to popular belief, however, nearsightedness, or myopia as it’s termed in the medical field, is a condition that allows you to clearly see up-close objects but objects further away appear blurry. For example, you might be able to read a book without any problems, but the TV across the room appears blurry to you.
Unlike nearsightedness, farsightedness, or hyperopia, affects the eye’s ability to clearly see objects close-up. This condition, that affects nearly 60 percent of the U.S. population, means that individuals might have no problem seeing distant objects but focusing on a book in their hands is difficult. Many people who have farsightedness have struggled with the condition since birth while others develop the condition later in life – even if they have lived without corrective eyewear.
The largest difference in nearsightedness and farsightedness is the shape of your eyeball and how the light reflects off your eye:
- Nearsightedness is caused by the light falling in front of your eye’s retina instead of directly on it. Though this condition may be caused by genetic malformations, the exact cause of nearsightedness varies by person.
- Farsightedness is caused by an abnormally shaped cornea or lens that’s typically the result of a shorter eyeball. This makes it difficult for light coming into the eye to focus directly on the cornea.
The two factors primarily responsible for the development of nearsightedness are hereditary and visual stress. While evidence shows that nearsightedness is largely inherited, it’s development can also depend greatly on how a person uses their eyes. For example, people who spends significant time reading, working at a computer or completing other demanding close visual work, are more likely to develop nearsightedness than individuals who do not.
Farsightedness, on the other hand, is usually present at birth and tends to be hereditary. Additionally, studies have shown that other issues such as sinus infections, head injuries and migraines can also be linked to the development of hyperopia.
One of the only similarities between nearsightedness and farsightedness is the fact that both conditions can be corrected with the simple use of contacts or glasses. As the most common method of correcting these conditions, eyeglasses and contacts can be worn constantly, to improve vision full-time, or they can be used as-needed for individuals who only experience difficulty seeing at certain times.
Eyeglasses can compensate for the abnormal shape of the eyeball, allowing light to properly reflect off the retina. Contact lenses completely refocus the light on the retina. Contacts are often a preferred method of treatment simply because they sit directly on the eye and require much less maintenance than typical eyeglasses.
However, many people who struggle with nearsightedness choose to correct their vision with eyeglasses, because a single lens can provide clear vision at all distances. Patients over the age of 40-years-old, who deal with nearsightedness as a result of vision stress, tend to need a bifocal or progressive additional lens that provides different powers or strengths throughout the lens and caters to vision issues both up close and at a distance.
The most reliable way to determine if you are nearsighted or farsighted is to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor. During this appointment, your doctor will test the accuracy of your vision by having you read lines of letters on an eye chart at both a distance and up-close.
Your doctor will then use an instrument called a phoropter, to test a variety of lenses that measure your refractive error, or the inaccuracy of the light rays entering your eye. Finally, the doctor will shine a light into each eye to directly check the reflection from the retina in the back of the eye. From here, he or she will determine how severe your condition is and what method would be best for correcting your vision issue.
The best way to ensure you have healthy vision is by attending regular eye exams. VSP Individual Vision Plans offers reliable vision plans with full-coverage insurance, a vast network of experienced doctors, immediate savings on vision care and much more.
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Some plans can only be accessed through membership in the Healthy Vision Association (HVA), which helps its members see well and stay healthy.
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