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Myopia vs. Hyperopia: What’s the Difference?

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A child in school squinting through their glasses to see clearly due to myopia.

As we grow, our eyes are constantly changing, and sometimes, they don’t develop perfectly. Refractive errors and eye conditions are common, and they can develop slowly, making them difficult to self-diagnose. This is why regular eye exams are so important—they give a trained optometrist the chance to monitor and address any problems or changes and help give you treatment when necessary.

Two of the most common problems are myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness). While myopia makes nearby objects clear and distant objects blurry, hyperopia is the opposite; nearby objects are blurry while distant objects are clear. Fortunately, both can be treated with your optometrist’s help.

What Is a Refractive Error?

You’ve probably noticed throughout your life—some people need glasses while others don’t. This is due to something called “refractive errors.” But what does this term mean, exactly?

The human eye is incredible. To properly function, your eyes rely heavily on their physical shape. Light enters through the clear front part (the lens) and bends due to the curve of this area. It refracts to a singular focal point on your retina, where the information can then be sent through the optic nerve to the brain.

When everything is shaped properly, this system works well. But what if there’s a problem with the shape of your eye? Light wouldn’t bend properly; it would refract somewhere else, and light rays scatter inside the eye. Instead of focusing clearly on the retina, the rays land either before or after, and this makes it much harder to process what you’re seeing.

This is a refractive error—a problem with the shape of your eye affecting how light bends inside the eye. There are several types of refractive errors, but two of the most common are myopia and hyperopia.

What Is Myopia?

Myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness, develops when either the eyeball itself grows too long or the cornea, the clear dome at the front of your eye, is too curved. This means that light rays aren’t able to focus on the retina; instead, they focus in front of it, causing distant objects to appear blurrier the further they get from the eye.

Myopia is an extremely common condition, and it’s expected to affect at least 30% of all Canadians. It has a large genetic component; if one or both parents have this condition, it’s much more likely that a child will develop it, too.

Myopia Symptoms

Usually, myopia develops in the earlier school years. It’s progressive, and as a child grows, their vision often gets worse before stabilizing around the age of 18-20. Myopia often causes:

  • Blurry vision when looking at distant objects
  • Squinting or partially closing the eyelids to see clearly
  • Frequent headaches due to eyestrain
  • Difficulty seeing the board in school or road signs while driving
  • Needing to sit closer to the television or computer screen
  • Frequent changes in prescription glasses or contact lenses

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms in your child, they may be dealing with myopia.

What Is Hyperopia?

Hyperopia, also known as farsightedness, is kind of like the opposite of myopia. In this case, the eyeball develops to be too short, or the cornea doesn’t curve enough. Instead of light focusing on the retina, it focuses behind it. This makes objects blurrier the closer they get to the eye.

Unlike myopia, hyperopia may not be noticeable until later in life. It’s much less common than myopia; approximately 14% of Canadians are affected by hyperopia.

Hyperopia Symptoms

Hyperopia can cause similar symptoms as myopia, but they may differ in severity and frequency. Some common symptoms of hyperopia include:

  • Difficulty reading or seeing up close
  • Blurry vision when looking at objects up close
  • Eyestrain and headaches after prolonged near work
  • Needing to hold books or papers farther away for clearer vision
  • Difficulty focusing on anything nearby

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, or have noticed them in your child, visit your optometrist for an eye exam to find out if hyperopia is the culprit.

How to Treat Refractive Errors

A smiling young boy being fit with a pair of glasses for his myopia.

So what can you do if you or your child is diagnosed with a refractive error? There’s good news—because they’re so common, they’re also highly treatable.

There are 2 approaches to treating refractive errors: glasses and contacts. These both alter light as it enters the eye to accommodate your natural refractive error, letting your eye properly refract the light to give you clear vision.

However, if you’re looking for a more permanent solution for your refractive error, laser eye surgery may be the way to go.

Laser Eye Surgery

The goal of laser eye surgery is simple. Rather than active as a temporary solution, these surgeries aim to permanently change the physical shape of your eye’s natural lens, allowing it to refract light properly without needing corrective lenses in the future.

However, it’s important to note that not everybody is a candidate for corrective surgery. To qualify, you need to:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a stable prescription for at least one year
  • Have healthy eyes, free of conditions like glaucoma or cataracts

If you’re considering laser eye surgery, you’ll need to book a laser eye surgery consultation with your optometrist so they can determine whether or not you’re eligible for this procedure.

Taking Care of Your Vision

If you’re dealing with any problems with your vision, come talk to us at Flamborough Family Eyecare. Our team can examine your eyes and find out what’s causing your symptoms. Don’t let vision problems disrupt your day—instead, request an appointment with our team!

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Written by Flamborough Family Eyecare

Our goal at Flamborough Family Eyecare is to exceed your expectations. We strive to provide each patient with an individualized eye care experience using our team’s expertise in combination with diagnostic technology, making sure every detail is taken into account. You’ll leave our office with your questions answered and your concerns addressed.

Contact us today to book an appointment in Waterdown.

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  • 170 Rockhaven Lane Unit 110
  • Waterdown, ON L0R 2H6

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  • Monday: 1:00 PM 5:30 PM
  • Tuesday: 8:30 AM 5:30 PM
  • Wednesday: 10:00 AM 7:00 PM
  • Thursday: 8:30 AM 5:30 PM
  • Friday: 8:30 AM 5:30 PM
  • Saturday: By appointment only
  • Sunday: Closed

*We are closed for all Saturdays in June, July and August. 

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