The eyes are amazing, complicated little organs. Like other organs in our bodies, they can suffer from a variety of different medical conditions. Learn the difference between nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatisms so you can keep your eyes healthy and your vision crystal clear.

What is Nearsightedness?

The official medical term for nearsightedness is Myopia. The symptoms are simple—objects far away look blurry to you. Your eyes can only clearly see things that are near to you. Nearsightedness occurs when a person’s eyeball is too long or their cornea is too curved. When that happens, light doesn’t enter the eye correctly, so objects appear blurry.

An eye doctor can correct this problem with eyeglasses or contacts. These lenses bend the images entering the eyes and allow them to stimulate the retinas properly. There are more permanent options available like laser eye surgery or orthokeratology.

Both options use different methods to reshape the cornea and change how light enters the eye. Laser surgery cuts away part of the tissue, while orthokeratology applies pressure to the cornea in an attempt to flatten it.

What is Farsightedness?

Farsightedness, officially called hyperopia, is the opposite problem. When you can clearly see things far away, but close-up objects appear blurry, you are said to have farsighted vision.

The physical characteristics of farsighted eyes are the reverse of nearsighted eyes: either the eyeball is too short of the cornea is too flat.

Due to the fact that farsightedness is simply the exact opposite of nearsightedness, the options for correcting it are the same. Temporary options include glasses or contacts, and permanent corrective procedures include laser surgery. Since orthokeratology attempts to flatten the cornea, it cannot be used to correct a cornea that is already too flat.

What is an Astigmatism?

The condition called “astigmatism” refers to a couple different possibilities. Either the cornea has an irregular shape, there is a clear cover over the front of the eye, or the actual lens inside the eye is curved. No matter what is causing the problem, people with astigmatism experience blurred vision.

Doctors use the same procedures to treat astigmatism as they do to treat nearsightedness—eyeglasses, contact lenses, laser surgery, and orthokeratology.

Why Do These Problems Occur?

Although they are different conditions, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatisms all develop either genetically or from environmental factors.

According to The Eyewear Place, eyes change naturally over time. This means that just because someone makes it to adulthood with perfect vision doesn’t mean they will never end up needing eye care with glasses or contacts. Environmental factors like looking at a computer screen for several hours every day can put stress on the eye and cause it to change.

Pay attention to your own vision and watch out for symptoms of these conditions. Whether you are nearsighted, farsighted, have an astigmatism, or have perfect vision, make sure to visit your optometrist regularly. Doctors recommend a visit every 1-3 years. If you experience changes in your visions, however, make an appointment right away.