Nearsighted, Farsighted, and Astigmatism: What Are They?

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“You’re farsighted.”
“Ah, myopia.”
“You’ve got astigmatism.”

You may have heard one or more of these during your visit to the eye doctor or heard them from someone else, but what do they actually mean?

Colloquially, this just means that the closer you are to an object, the better you can see it. The farther away from the object you are, the blurrier it gets.

Myopia, the medical term for nearsightedness, is not uncommon. It occurs when the physical length of the eyeball is longer than the optical length. In plain terms, this means the incoming light doesn’t focus directly on the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of your eye that processes what you see from focused light, and sends that message to the brain to be understood. So, when the incoming light doesn’t reach the retina, images get focused in front of the retina rather than directly on it (which would yield 20/20 or “perfect” vision clarity) making it difficult to see objects that are far away.

The level of nearsightedness can vary drastically—you may be medically nearsighted but not notice it for years if it’s a low degree of myopia, or you may not be able to clearly see more than a couple feet in front of you if it’s a high degree of myopia.

This describes being able to see objects more clearly when they’re farther away from you. The closer an object gets, the blurrier it will be.

Hyperopia, the medical term for farsightedness, is the opposite of nearsightedness. When the length of the eyeball is shorter than the optical length, images get focused behind the retina rather than right on it, making it difficult to see objects that are close.

Astigmatism is an eye condition that makes it difficult for the eye to focus and register the light reflected from objects, typically caused by an irregularly shaped cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye). By failing to focus both near and far objects on the retina, astigmatism makes objects that are near and far appear blurry.

Thankfully, all three of these conditions can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or in some cases, corrective surgery.

Simply put:
- Myopia or nearsightedness means you can see better “near.”
- Hyperopia or farsightedness means you can see better “far.”
- Astigmatism means things that are near and far appear blurry.

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