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Nearsightedness vs. Farsightedness: What is the Difference?

Nearsightedness and farsightedness have the same cause — light bending incorrectly into the eyes — but opposite outcomes. In one condition, your up-close vision is poor. In the other, your distance vision is affected. You can have both conditions at the same time, but it is rare.

What Is Nearsightedness?

Also known as myopia, nearsightedness is when your close-up vision works well but distant images appear blurry in your eyes. When you have this refractive disorder, your eyes cannot bend light onto the retina properly, causing focus issues.

You can do most close-up work, such as reading, working on puzzles and texting, without any vision difficulty, but you may not see far enough to drive safely.

What is Farsightedness?

Like nearsightedness, hyperopia, or farsightedness, is a refractive error that affects how your eye bends light onto the retina. But this condition causes blurred vision when you look at nearby objects.

Your distant vision remains clear when you are farsighted, but you often will struggle to read text in a book or emails or text messages on your phone. You will also have poor eyesight during most close-up activities.

How to Tell What You Have

The most effective way to diagnose your refractive error is to undergo a comprehensive eye examination in an eye doctor’s office. Diagnosis often involves taking a visual acuity test (where you read letters on a chart) and having the doctor look into your retina using an instrument like a retinoscope.

At home, you can tell if you have distance or near vision issues by mimicking a standard visual acuity test

Nearsightedness Test

If you do not have a standard eye chart with letters, you can use any object provided that you stand 10 feet away from it.

For instance, you could try looking at a street sign or blackboard at school. Make sure to cover one eye at a time and look with the other when testing your eyes’ focus range (power).

Can you easily recognize a street sign or writings on a board that is 10 feet away? If not, you are probably nearsighted and have a problem with distance focusing.

This may also be true if looking at distant objects often gives you a headache or eye strain.

Farsightedness 

A DIY farsightedness test may be one of the easiest to accomplish at home. The test: read something up close. If you are like most people, you may tell that you have this vision problem if the words in the book, on a newspaper page or on your phone’s display appear blurry to you.

To test your vision for farsightedness, try reading text on a card held 14 inches away with one eye covered at a time. Difficulty recognizing the text or eye strain when reading indicates possible hyperopia.

Also, you may be farsighted if you squint to see clearly or if you get a headache when you work at a computer or do other vision-intensive, close-up work.  

Can You Have Both Nearsightedness and Farsightedness?

You can be farsighted and nearsighted at the same time if you have a rare condition known as anisometropia. In that case, you will have hyperopia in one eye and myopia in the other, meaning different focusing powers for each.

The shape or size of one eye differs from the other in most anisometropia cases. Both eyes may have difficulty bending light on the retina, but their respective refractive errors vary significantly.  

Due to this variation in refractive powers, each eye requires a different glass prescription and amount of vision correction.

Treatments

Common myopia and hyperopia treatment options include: 

  • Eyeglasses and contact lenses: Glasses and contacts are a non-invasive way to correct nearsightedness and farsightedness. Your specific refractive error determines the prescription you require to bring your vision back to normal or near normal.
  • Refractive surgery: If you are an ideal candidate, a procedure like laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) can correct your refractive error and reduce or eliminate your dependence on vision correction glasses. During refractive surgery, your eye doctor uses a laser to reshape your cornea and restore your eye’s focusing abilities. 
  • Orthokeratology (ortho-k): This procedure helps to correct nearsightedness by gradually flattening your cornea using a series of hard contact lenses. 

FAQs

Is it better to be nearsighted or farsighted?

Your lifestyle or career probably determines this. When you’re nearsighted, you have poor distance vision. Wearing glasses or contacts can inhibit your performance in situations like baseball where you have to quickly spot small fast-moving objects from a distance. 

On the flipside, if your job involved a lot of close-up work like working at a computer, reading, or writing, it’d be great if you didn’t need reading glasses all the time.

Is farsighted or nearsighted rarer?

Nearsightedness is more common — about 25 percent of Americans have it. In contrast, the prevalence rate of farsightedness in the United States ranges from 5 to 10 percent.

Are reading glasses for the nearsighted or farsighted?

Reading glasses are for people who can see distant objects clearly but have blurry close-up vision (farsighted). By wearing these vision correction glasses, these individuals can read a book more comfortably and do most close-up work with less or no eye strain.

References

  1. Nearsightedness: What is Myopia? (December 17, 2021). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  2. Home Vision Tests. (March 2, 2021). MedlinePlus.

  3. Farsightedness. (June 16, 2020). Mayo Clinic.

  4. Anisometropia. (April 21, 2020). American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.

  5. Farsightedness. (n.d). National Eye Institute.

Last Updated July 6, 2022

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