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Long-sightedness Content Supplied by NHS Choices

Long-sightedness affects the ability to see nearby objects. You may be able to see distant objects clearly, but closer objects are usually out of focus.

It often affects adults over 40, but can affect people of all ages - including babies and children.

The medical name for long-sightedness is hyperopia or hypermetropia.

This page covers:


Getting an eye test



Symptoms of long-sightedness

Long-sightedness can affect people in different ways.

Some people only have trouble focusing on nearby objects, while some people may struggle to see clearly at any distance.

If you're long-sighted, you may:

  • find that nearby objects are fuzzy and out of focus, but distant objects are clear
  • have to squint to see clearly
  • have tired or strained eyes after activities that involve focusing on nearby objects, such as reading, writing or computer work
  • experience headaches

Children who are long-sighted often don't have obvious issues with their vision at first. But if left untreated, it can lead to problems such as a squint or lazy eye.

Getting an eye test

If you think you or your child may be long-sighted, you should book an eye test at a local opticians. Find an opticians near you.

Having an eye test at least every two years is usually recommended, but you can have a test at any point if you have any concerns about your vision.

An eye test can confirm whether you're long or short-sighted, and you can be given a prescription for glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.

For some people - such as children under 16, or those under 19 and in full-time education - eye tests are available free of charge on the NHS. Find out about NHS eyecare entitlements to check if you qualify.

Read more about diagnosing long-sightedness.

Causes of long-sightedness

Long-sightedness occurs if the eye doesn't focus light on the retina (the light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye) properly.

This may be because the:

  • eyeball is too short
  • cornea (transparent layer at the front of the eye) is too flat
  • lens inside the eye is unable to focus properly

It's often not clear what causes these problems, but they're rarely a sign of any underlying condition.

Sometimes long-sightedness may be a result of the genes you inherited from your parents, or a result of the lenses in your eyes becoming stiffer and less able to focus as you get older.

Treatments for long-sightedness

Children and young adults with long-sightedness may not need any treatment, as their eyes are often able to adapt to the problem and their vision may not be significantly affected.

Treatment is usually required in older adults, particularly those over 40, as your eyes become less able to adapt as you get older.

There are several ways long-sightedness can be corrected.

The main treatments are:

  • glasses - glasses made specifically for your eyes can ensure that light is focused onto the back of your eyes correctly
  • contact lenses - some people prefer these to glasses because they are lightweight and virtually invisible
  • laser eye surgery - a laser is used to change the shape of the cornea, which may mean you don't need to wear glasses or contact lenses

Glasses are the simplest and safest treatment that anyone can try. Contact lenses and laser eye surgery carry a small risk of complications and aren't usually suitable for young children.

Read more about how long-sightedness is treated.


You can find out if you have long-sightedness by having an eye test at your local opticians.

Find an opticians near you.

Having an eye test at least every two years is usually recommended, but you can have a test at any point if you have any concerns about your vision.

For some people - such as children under 16, or those under 19 and in full-time education - eye tests are available free of charge on the NHS.

Read about NHS eyecare entitlements to check if you qualify.

What happens during an eye test

Your eyes will usually be tested by an optometrist (someone who's been specially trained to examine the eyes).

A number of different tests may be carried out as part of your eye test, possibly including:

  • measurements of the pressure inside your eyes
  • checks to measure how well your eyes work together
  • visual acuity tests - where you're asked to read from a chart that has rows of letters that get smaller on each line
  • retinoscopy - where a bright light is shone into your eye to see how your eye reacts to it

If the tests detect a possible problem with your near vision, you may be asked to repeat the visual acuity tests while different strength lenses are placed in front of your eyes.

This will help the optometrist to determine what your glasses prescription should be.

Understanding your glasses prescription

If an eye test finds that you're long-sighted, you'll be given a prescription that describes what lenses you need to improve your vision. This can be used to make glasses or contact lenses.

Your prescription will usually consist of three main numbers for each eye. These are:

  • Sph (sphere) - a positive number here indicates that you're long-sighted, while a negative number indicates that you're short-sighted
  • Cyl (cylinder) - this number indicates whether you have astigmatism (where the front of your eye isn't perfectly curved)
  • Axis - this describes the angle of any astigmatism you have

If you're long-sighted, the Sph number is the most relevant. This is given in a measurement called dioptres (D), which describes how severely long-sighted you are.

A score up to 3D is usually considered to be mild long-sightedness, while a score of more than 6D is considered to be fairly severe long-sightedness.


There are several different ways long-sightedness can be corrected.

The main methods are:


Contact lenses

Laser eye surgery

For some adults who become long-sighted as they get older, a procedure to implant artificial lenses in the eyes may also be an option.


Long-sightedness can usually be corrected simply and safely using glasses made specifically to your prescription. See diagnosing long-sightedness for more information about what your prescription means.

Wearing a lens that is made to your prescription will ensure that light is focused onto the back of your eye (retina) correctly, so that close objects don't appear as blurry.

The thickness and weight of the lenses you need will depend on how long-sighted you are. Long-sightedness can get worse with age, so the strength of your prescription may need to be increased as you get older.

You can get vouchers towards the cost of glasses if you're eligible - for example, if you are under 16 years of age or if you are receiving Income Support. Read about NHS eyecare entitlements to check if you qualify.

If you're not eligible, you'll have to pay for your glasses. The cost can vary significantly, depending on your choice of frame. Entry-level glasses start at around 50, with designer glasses costing several hundred pounds.

Contact lenses

Contact lenses can also be used to correct vision in the same way as glasses. Some people prefer contact lenses to glasses because they are lightweight and almost invisible, but some people find them more of a hassle than wearing glasses.

Contact lenses can be worn on a daily basis and discarded each day (daily disposables), or they can be disinfected and reused. They can also be worn for a longer period of time, although this can increase the risk of infection.

Your optician can advise you about the most suitable type of contact lenses for you. If you decide to wear contact lenses, it is very important that you maintain good lens hygiene to prevent eye infections. Read more about contact lens safety.

As with glasses, some people are entitled to vouchers towards the cost of contact lenses. Read about NHS eyecare entitlements to check if you qualify.

If you're not eligible, you'll have to pay for your contact lenses. The cost will vary, depending on your prescription and the type of lens you choose. They can range from 5-10 a month for some monthly disposables, to 30-50 a month for some daily disposables.

Laser eye surgery

Laser eye surgery involves using a laser to reshape your cornea (the transparent layer at the front of the eye) and improve the curvature, so light is better focused onto the back of your eye.

The most commonly used type of laser eye surgery for long-sightedness is called laser in situ keratectomy (LASIK).

During the procedure, a thin protective layer is created in the front of the cornea with one type of laser, then the cornea is reshaped by another type of laser. Local anaesthetic drops are used to numb the eyes while it's carried out.

It's a 30 minute procedure and both eyes are normally treated on the same day. You can go home soon afterwards and are usually able to return to work and driving the following day.

LASIK can only be carried out if your cornea is thick enough, the curvature of the cornea is not too steep, and the surface of your eye is in good health. Techniques using artificial lens implants (see below) are more suitable for some people, particularly older people.

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has published a Patient's Guide to Refractive Laser Surgery (PDF, 364kb) and also provides answers to specific questions related to laser refractive surgery (PDF, 196kb).


LASIK can improve both reading and distance vision, allowing you to socialise and do outdoor activities without glasses.

Most people who have laser surgery report that they're happy with the results, but glasses may still be necessary for some activities after treatment.

Also, as with any type of surgery, the results of laser surgery cannot be guaranteed and there's a risk of complications. Sometimes the treatment may need to be repeated.

Risks and complications

Laser eye surgery has some risks and side effects, including:

  • eye discomfort - laser eye surgery can temporarily affect the protective layer of tears over the front of the eye and many people have some eye discomfort in the early period after treatment; lubricant eye drops can help, but aren't usually required for more than a few months
  • hazy vision - it takes around three to six months to fully recover from LASIK, and many people notice blur or haze around bright lights in the early weeks; about 1 in 20 people needs further laser treatment to improve their vision

There's also a small risk of potentially serious complications that could threaten your vision, such as the cornea becoming infected or scarred. But these problems are rare and can be treated with corneal transplantation when they do occur.

Make sure you understand all the risks involved before deciding to have laser eye surgery.

Who can't have laser surgery

You shouldn't have any sort of laser eye surgery if you are under the age of 21. This is because your vision may still be developing at this stage.

Even if you're over 21, laser eye surgery should only be carried out if your glasses or contact lens prescriptions hasn't changed significantly over the last two years or more.

You may also not be suited to laser surgery if you:

  • are pregnant or breastfeeding - your body will contain hormones that cause slight fluctuations in your eyesight, making precise surgery difficult
  • have other problems with your eyes, such as dry eyes or cataracts (cloudy patches in the lens of the eye)

Laser eye surgery can generally be effective for long-sighted people with a prescription of up to 4D (see diagnosing long-sightedness for more information about this), although higher prescriptions can be treated effectively in some people. Your eye surgeon can advise you about this.

Availability and cost

Laser surgery isn't usually available on the NHS because other treatments, such as glasses or contact lenses, allow you to see well enough to do most normal activities. You'll usually have to pay for surgery privately.

Prices can vary depending on where you live, the individual clinic and the type of equipment used during the procedure. But as a rough guide, you usually have to pay somewhere around 800-2,500 for each eye.

Read more about laser eye surgery on the NHS.

Artificial lens implants

Laser eye surgery isn't suitable for people with the early stages of cataracts, which is more common as you get older. It also doesn't usually result in complete freedom from glasses for older people.

Surgery to replace the natural lens inside the eye with a multifocal lens implant is now often used as an alternative to laser eye surgery for the correction of long-sightedness.

This operation, called refractive lens exchange, is similar to cataract surgery. It's performed under local anaesthetic and you can go home soon afterwards.