There are several different ways long-sightedness can be corrected.
The main methods are:
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 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.