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Myopia vs. hyperopia: What’s the difference?

Hyperopia and myopia corrected by lens

Myopia vs. Hyperopia

Myopia and hyperopia are common — but essentially opposite — types of vision problems. The biggest difference between them is how objects are focused in the eye. For people with myopia (short-sightedness) objects focus short of the retina - thus the name. They also see close up objects more clearly. For people with hyperopia (long-sightedness) objects focus behind the retina or too long. They can see distant objects more clearly as their eyes can often easily adjust focus to make them clear.

After light enters our eye through the pupil, it needs to be neatly focused on the retina in the back of the eye. When light enters the eye and does not focus properly on the retina, it causes blurry vision.

Comparison chart: Nearsightedness vs. farsightedness
Medical termMyopiaHyperopia or hypermetropia
What is in focus?Close-up objectsDistant objects
What looks blurry?Distant objectsClose-up objects
Eyeball shape (in most cases)Too long (front to back)Too short (front to back)
Where light focuses inside the eyeToo far in front of the retinaToo far past the retina

What is short-sighted vision?

The medical term for short-sightedness is myopia. In a myopic eye, light focuses too far in front of the retina, instead of directly on it. 

This usually happens because the eyeball has grown too long from front to back. But it can also be due to the shape or location of the cornea and lens in the eye.

When light focuses in front of the retina, distant objects look blurry and nearby objects look clearer.

Short-sightedness usually develops during childhood and gets progressively worse throughout adolescence. It then stabilises during early adulthood. Children who have progressive myopia may need specialised glasses, contacts or eye drops to slow the progression. This is called myopia control.

AApproximately 55% of Australians report having a sight defect with long and short sightedness being the most common. The rates increase over time with about 12% of children 0-14 years having a defect while 90% of people over 55years old have one.

SEE RELATED: Why myopia progression in children is a growing concern

What is long-sighted vision?

The medical term for long-sightedness is hyperopia. It's the opposite of short-sightedness. Hyperopia is usually caused by an eyeball that's too short, causing light to focus behind the retina. 

Hyperopia usually makes it harder to focus on close objects, and in mild cases this might not affect vision at all. In children and young adults, the eyes’ accommodation system may be able to overcome small amounts of hyperopia to keep vision clear albeit with a little bit of effort. 

However, high levels of hyperopia can cause objects at all distances to appear out of focus. 

Most children are born with hyperopia, meaning they are long-sighted at birth. Childhood hyperopia typically improves as the eyes grow and develop.

The similarities between myopia and hyperopia

Myopia and hyperopia are both types of refractive errors — slight variations in the eye that affect its ability to focus light. These variations are quite common, similar to differences in height.

Short-sightedness and long-sightedness are both easily corrected with prescription glasses or contact lensesLASIK, PRK and other refractive surgeries can also correct refractive errors. They are options are available once vision stabilises, usually in a person’s early to mid 20s.

If left uncorrected, the two types of refractive error can also share common signs and symptoms, including:

If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist.

READ MORE: How to manage myopia and slow its progression

Myopia stabilization and associated factors among participants in the Correction of Myopia Evaluation Trial (COMET). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. December 2013.

Increased prevalence of myopia in the United States between 1971-1972 and 1999-2004. Archives of Ophthalmology. December 2009. 

Prevalence of refractive error in the United States, 1999-2004. Archives of Ophthalmology. August 2008. 

Farsightedness fact sheet. National Eye Institute. Accessed July 2022. 

Farsightedness. Cleveland Clinic. November 2020. 

Eye disorders. Nelson Pediatric Symptom-Based Diagnosis. 2018. Elsevier Inc.

Optics of the human eye. Ophthalmology. 2019. 

How to know if your child needs glasses. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Accessed July 2022. 

Eye strain. Cleveland Clinic. August 2019.

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