If you have a refractive error like farsightedness — meaning your cornea does not refract light onto the retina properly, and you have trouble focusing on objects up close — you may feel like you are always going to the doctor for new glasses and contact lenses. (Learn more)
For people getting tired of this consistent expense and inconvenience, LASIK is a great option to fix the cornea and improve vision for years. Both types of farsightedness — hyperopia, and presbyopia or age-related farsightedness — are improved by the LASIK procedure. (Learn more)
It is important to understand the surgical procedure, cost, and potential risks associated with undergoing this elective procedure. (Learn more) While it is an outpatient surgery, it is surgery, which means there is a recovery period, a list of things you cannot do for a few days or weeks, and follow-up exams to ensure your vision is improving to normal. Understanding these things will help you determine if LASIK is right for you. (Learn more)
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What Is Farsightedness?
The term farsightedness is associated with two types of vision problems: hyperopia and presbyopia. Hyperopia is the term for general farsightedness that develops in childhood or adolescence and, without corrective help, lasts for life. Presbyopia is a type of farsightedness that develops in middle age, typically around 40 years old or later. Generally, if you are diagnosed with farsightedness, you have hyperopia.
- Trouble focusing on nearby objects
- Eye strain from constantly focusing the eyes
- Fatigue or headaches, especially after close work
- Aching or burning eyes
- Irritability or nervousness after concentrating for a long time
Hyperopia is less common than myopia, or nearsightedness, but it is a fairly common refractive error — a condition in which the shape of the cornea prevents light from hitting the retina correctly, leading to trouble processing vision.
Because of how the cornea bends light in hyperopia, the refraction point is further than the retina in the eye. This causes far objects to appear clear while near objects are blurry or fuzzy. In mild cases of hyperopia, the main signs may be eye strain during activities like reading or typing; in severe cases of hyperopia, most sight will be blurry. Like other refractive errors, farsightedness is an eye focusing disorder, not an eye disease.
It is a little harder to diagnose farsightedness than nearsightedness, but optometrists typically uncover this condition during a thorough eye exam. When you see an optometrist with complaints about eye strain and vision problems, especially difficulty focusing on objects up close, your eye doctor will conduct a series of tests to understand whether there is an underlying condition impacting your vision. From there, you may receive a prescription for glasses and/or contact lenses.
Over time, you may feel like continually buying new glasses or contacts is a hassle, and you want something more convenient than devices that correct your vision. You just want to have normal vision without accessories. This makes you a good candidate for LASIK, a procedure designed to reshape the cornea to adjust refractive errors like hyperopia.
LASIK, Refractive Errors, and Farsightedness
All refractive errors involve corneal size or shape issues that change how light hits the retina, and LASIK improves vision by removing layers of cells from the cornea in targeted locations, adjusting how light is refracted. While it may not be the best procedure for every individual with a refractive error, it has been a great solution for millions of people all over the world.
How Does LASIK Treatment Work?
Treatment has three stages: before, during, and after surgery. Before you go into LASIK surgery, your eye doctor will need a baseline evaluation to determine if you are a good candidate, and this means you may have to stop wearing contact lenses fulltime, so your eyes can adjust.
- Stop wearing soft contacts two weeks before your evaluation.
- If you wear rigid gas permeable (RGP) lenses, stop wearing those three weeks prior to your evaluation.
- For those wearing hard (PMMA) lenses, stop wearing those four weeks (one month) prior to your evaluation.
Talk to your doctor about any past vision problems or issues you’ve had, especially if they have not treated you for prior vision issues. Your doctor may ask if you have specific health conditions like diabetes, HIV, or wound-healing problems, and they will want to know if you are on any medications that may affect your vision. Since these issues impact the effectiveness of LASIK and the healing process, it is important to answer honestly.
You should ask your eye doctor about any potential risks, and be honest about your concerns regarding the procedure. Do not feel pressured by your doctor to make a decision right away after the conversation, and feel free to get a second opinion on any concerns.
Your surgeon will give you full information on things to do and stop doing the day before your surgery.
- Stop using lotions or creams.
- Stop using any makeup, as it can get in the eyes.
- Stop applying perfumes.
Debris in the eyelashes and along the eyes increases the risk of infection from the surgery.
The actual LASIK procedure itself should take no longer than 30 minutes. Your surgeon will put numbing drops in your eyes, and a device will hold your eye open for the duration of the procedure. A flap will be cut in the cornea — either with a very small knife or with a laser — and then the corneal laser will activate to cut your cornea into a better refractive shape. No stitches are used to hold the flap in place, so you will receive a shield over your eye at the end of the procedure. This will protect your eye from accidentally being hit or poked in the next couple of days, especially while you sleep.
You will get a list of things not to do for several weeks after the LASIK procedure, but overall, you should be able to return to normal activity within two days. You should notice improvements in your vision in the first day after the procedure.
Your vision may fluctuate for a few months after the procedure. Although you will notice immediate improvements, you will not achieve full 20/20 vision for three to six months, as the cornea heals. During this time, you may suffer from dry eyes, difficulty with night vision, glares or halos around lights, and light sensitivity. These are all normal side effects, though they only occur about 10 percent of the time and usually go away in six months or less. If you experience problems with these side effects that limit your ability to perform normal tasks, they seem to be getting worse, or they do not go away after six months, you need to talk to your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Do I Qualify for LASIK Surgery for Farsightedness?
People who are not qualified for LASIK for farsightedness include those who:
- Have unstable vision, meaning their prescription has changed in the last year.
- Are younger than 18, for legal reasons.
- Are younger than 20 or older than 40, in some cases, because the eyes change more in these age ranges.
- Are pregnant, experiencing a hormonal change, or take medications that change hormones because this impacts vision.
- Have a disease leading to an abnormality of the cornea.
- Have a more severe eye disease like glaucoma or cataracts.
- Have other health conditions, like diabetes or an autoimmune condition, which impact eye health.
- Have a higher risk of damaging the eye after surgery due to one’s job, hobbies like contact sports, or other risks.
Is LASIK Really Worth the Cost and Time?
According to the American Refractive Surgery Council, LASIK side effects are common but not debilitating, and complications and harm are very rare. For example, 30 percent of people who undergo LASIK for farsightedness or another refractive error experience dry eyes for three months after surgery, which is a side effect, but it is manageable and typically goes away.
Less than 5 percent of the time, undercorrection occurs, so individuals need to continue wearing glasses or contact lenses during the healing process to manage any vision imperfections.
The cost upfront is $4,500 at most; however, most clinics offer discounts and special offers, and insurance may cover part of the cost if your refractive error is serious enough. The studies on complications of LASIK have been small and inconclusive. Most people who undergo this procedure experience improved vision, including people who have hyperopia. On average, 96 percent of people report being satisfied with the procedure. If you are concerned about the side effects, this is almost always an elective surgery, so you do not have to pursue it.
Hyperopia (Farsightedness). American Optometric Association (AOA).
Farsightedness: What Is Hyperopia? (March 10, 2014). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
Farsightedness: What Is farsightedness? National Eye Institute (NEI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Laser In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) for Farsightedness. (March 3, 2017). Health Link British Columbia.
What Should I Expect Before, During, and After Surgery? (July 11, 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
LASIK Complication Rate: The Latest Facts and Stats You Should Know. (October 30, 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.
What's It Like to Have LASIK? Patient Shares Surgery, Recovery, Cost and More. (August 22, 2018). Today.com.