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Hyperopia is farsightedness, meaning that far away objects can be seen clearly but not those nearby. It is caused by the eyes being a bit short from front to back. To see clearly, the light of an image must be at its best focus right where it hits the retina, the light-sensing surface at the back of the eye. This is called the focal point of the light. When the eyes are too short, the focal point of the light coming through each eye would be in back of the retina, if it could reach there. It's as if the retina has been moved out in front of the ideal focal point. As a result, objects or writing nearby are blurry.

Hyperopia can less commonly be caused by the clear cornea at the front of the eye being a bit flattened instead of perfectly round. Unlike astigmatism, however, this flatness is uniform, so the curvature top to bottom is the same as the curvature from left to right. It is not uncommon for young children to have a mild form of either hyperopia type, but grow out of it with time, as their eyes mature and take on a more uniformly round shape.

In more severe cases of hyperopia, there is an inability to focus at any distance, near or far. If this is present from birth, the brain cannot merge the images from both eyes into a clear single image. In response to this, it favors one of the eyes and stops using the other - perhaps because a single imperfect image is still a bit clearer than trying to combine two such images. In this case, a child with severe hyperopia may develop ‘lazy eye' or ‘cross-eyes.' This is because one eye is used so little that even its external muscles, meant to be pointing it in specific directions, begin to "get the idea" they are no longer needed. An equivalent form of severe nearsightedness (myopia) doesn't seem to exist, as myopic children are always found to have sharp vision for nearby objects.

Hyperopia is diagnosed in a standard eye test when a person sees objects or letters at a distance very well, but not those that are close. Further confirmation of this can be obtained by seeing how light is reflected off the retina, using a retinoscope, or by determining one's refractive error with the instrument called a phoropter. The phoropter looks like a complex pair of binoculars that the eye care specialist brings close to the eyes, asking the patient to compare two different views of the same letters and decide which is the clearest.

Like nearsightedness, hyperopia seems to be inherited. Since it is a problem with the eyes being too short, it can be corrected for with glasses or contact lenses that are slightly convex, or bending outward away from the eye. Surgical solutions also exist, now typically done with a laser. In this approach a small slit is made in the cornea, changing its overall shape. In the case of hyperopia, since the eye is short, the corrective surgery reshapes the cornea to stick out a little further. For the nearsighted, with too long an eye, surgery reduces the extent of the cornea protruding out. In any case, good vision is essential for children to learn and for people of all ages to comfortably go about their days.

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