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What's the difference between short-sightedness and long-sightedness?

Short-sightedness and long-sightedness are two very common — and very different — types of vision conditions. Both are refractive errors, or abnormalities of the eye that affect its ability to focus light on the retina.

The medical term for short-sightedness is myopia. This occurs when light entering the eye does not focus properly on the retina, the membrane that lines the back of the eyeball. Instead, the light falls 'short' (thus the name) — usually because the eyeball has grown too long. As a result, distant objects appear blurry. On the other hand, close-up vision, at a certain distance, is not affected.

Long-sightedness, or hyperopia, is somewhat the opposite of short-sightedness. It usually is caused by an eyeball that's too short, which causes light to come to a focus too 'long' behind the retina instead of directly on it.

Typically, long sightedness makes focusing on close objects difficult , while distant objects remain clear. High amounts of hyperopia may cause difficulties with objects at all distances.

Mild cases of long-sightedness might not affect vision at all but cause headaches, tired eyes, red eyes and other symptoms when reading or doing other close work.

Interestingly, children usually are born slightly long-sighted. In most cases, this early childhood hyperopia decreases as the eyeball lengthens with normal growth and development.

Short-sightedness, however, usually develops during childhood, worsens during adolescence and stabilises during young adulthood.

Shared symptoms

Short-sightedness and long-sightedness share some common symptoms, including headaches, eye strain, squinting to see clearly, and eye fatigue.

Experiencing any of these symptoms is an indication that a comprehensive eye test with an optometrist is needed to determine a diagnosis and treatment options.

Treatment for short-sightedness and long-sightedness

Both short-sightedness and long-sightedness can be treated with glasses and contact lenses. The lenses work by changing the way light rays focuses into the eyes.

Many people find that their spectacle prescription stabilises once they’re in their twenties.

When there is no more change in refractive error, LASIK and PRK are two surgical procedures that can permanently correct myopia or hyperopia by reshaping the cornea so light comes to a clear focus on the retina.

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