Nearsighted or Farsighted: Can You Spot the Symptoms?

Put your symptoms to the test and score vision facts with this quiz on different refractive errors.

A young woman putting on glasses to read a book

Headaches. Eyestrain. Squinting to read. There are many clues that something may be up with your vision. If you notice these symptoms, you may have a refractive error, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness.

But which one?

Contrary to what you might think, the two refractive errors share many common symptoms. That can make it tough to figure out which one is messing with your vision.

Getting a diagnosis from an optometrist is key. In the meantime, there are ways to figure out whether you’re nearsighted or farsighted. Put your symptoms to the test with our quiz.

Has it been a while since your last eye exam? Now’s the time to book an appointment!

Question 1: Do you need to squint to see distant objects?

Your Answer: Yes

You may have nearsightedness (myopia). This common vision problem occurs when the front-to-back length of the eye is too long or when the cornea (the clear outer layer of the front of the eye) is too curved.

In these situations, light entering the eye focuses in front of the retina (the back layer of the eye) instead of on it. As a result, objects at a distance often appear out of focus or blurry. People who are nearsighted can see up-close objects, but they may need to squint to see distant objects.

Your Answer: No

You may not have nearsightedness. However, you may have another refractive error known as farsightedness (hyperopia).

Farsightedness is the opposite of nearsightedness. It occurs when the front-to-back length of the eye is too short or your cornea is too flat. When this happens, light focuses behind the retina instead of on it. This makes nearby objects appear blurry. People with farsighteness may have to squint to see objects nearby, like when they are reading or working at a computer.

Question 2: Do you have parents who are nearsighted or farsighted?

Your Answer: Yes

Genetics can play a major role in determining your refractive error. “If a parent is nearsighted, there’s a good possibility their offspring is also nearsighted,” says Sandra Pinon, O.D., an optometrist at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in New Braunfels, Texas. The same goes if a parent is farsighted.

But things can get confusing if one parent is nearsighted and one parent is farsighted. In that event, “it’s just the luck of the draw as to which refractive error the offspring inherits,” says Dr. Pinon.

Your Answer: No

You’re more likely to have vision problems if your family members do, too. But it doesn’t mean you’re in the clear if your parents’ vision is healthy. It’s best to get your eyes checked by an optometrist. (And even if your vision is 20/20, you should get regular eye exams.)

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Question 3: Have you been diagnosed with diabetes?

Your Answer: Yes

Certain chronic health conditions can affect eye health and cause vision changes. Diabetes, for example, can make someone more nearsighted if they don’t control their blood sugar levels. “When a person’s blood sugar level rises, this causes swelling in the crystalline lens of the eye,” says Dr. Pinon. In most cases, this swelling creates a nearsighted shift.

Still, some people experience a farsighted shift, Dr. Pinon adds. The only way to know your refractive error with certainty is to get an eye exam.

Your Answer: No

Not having a diabetes diagnosis doesn’t mean you’re not nearsighted. In fact, experiencing vision changes could be a symptom of undiagnosed diabetes. “Our eyes tend to let us know that something is wrong,” says Dr. Pinon.

If you notice a sudden change in your vision, call your eye doctor right away.

Question 4: Are you 45 or older?

Your Answer: Yes

Around age 45, most people will start to notice their world looks a little blurry up close. It’s due to a natural part of aging called presbyopia.

Our crystalline lens (the part of the eye that allows us to focus on objects at varying distances) loses elasticity as we age. “This can occur as early as mid-40s and last into old age,” says Dr. Pinon.

The symptoms of presbyopia closely resemble those of farsightedness. Both conditions make it tough to see nearby objects. But if you didn’t have a problem with your vision until you hit your mid-40s, you’re likely dealing with presbyopia.

Your Answer: No

Symptoms of farsightedness usually appear well before age 45. In fact, most people who are farsighted are born with it. If you notice it’s hard to read the menu at a restaurant or make out pictures on your cell phone, you could be farsighted.

If faraway objects look blurry (like street signs or your favorite TV show), you could be nearsighted.

The Bottom Line

If your answers to any of these questions point to a refractive error, it’s a good idea to book an appointment to get your eyes checked. An optometrist can correctly diagnose nearsightedness and farsightedness.

If it turns out either one is affecting your vision, your optometrist can help fit you with a pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Medically reviewed by Sandra Pinon, O.D.

See our sources:

Nearsightedness overview: Mayo Clinic
Farsightedness overview: Mayo Clinic
Farsightedness facts: National Eye Institute
What is farsightedness: American Academy of Ophthalmology
What is nearsightedness: American Optometric Association
Presbyopia overview: American Optometric Association