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Why Can’t I See Faces From Far Away?

Phoebe Jade

Written By:

Phoebe Jade

Updated: 26 February 2024 •  
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Have you noticed yourself squinting when trying to make out someone’s face from far away? If so, you’re not alone. Difficulty seeing faces from a distance is a common problem that many people experience.
 
In this article, we’ll explore why you might have trouble seeing faces from far away and what you can do to improve your vision.
 

The most likely reason – nearsightedness

Nearsightedness or myopia occurs when the eyeball is longer than usual or the cornea (the clear part that covers the colored middle parts of the eye) is too curved, causing light to focus in front of the retina (the inner part of the eye that transforms light that enters the eye into electrical signals sent to the brain) instead of directly on it.
 
long eyeball causes myopia

Nearsightedness occurs when light focuses in front of the retina instead of directly on it. Source: Britannica

 
This occurrence can make objects in the distance appear blurry or unclear while nearby objects appear clear.
 
Nearsightedness can occur due to genetic and environmental factors, such as spending too much time on close-up activities like watching computer screens, reading, or writing.
 

Symptoms of nearsightedness

 
One of the most notable symptoms of nearsightedness is difficulty seeing objects far away. This commonly presents as blurry or fuzzy vision when looking at objects in the distance, such as faces from far away or road signs.
 
Also, individuals with myopia may experience eye strain or headaches when attempting to focus on distant objects.
 
Nearsightedness can often be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam, and it’s important to book an appointment with your eye doctor if you’ve been experiencing any of these symptoms.
 
Early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent further progression of nearsightedness and improve your overall vision.
 

How to treat/correct nearsightedness

 
The most common methods of treating or correcting nearsightedness include corrective lenses such as glasses or contact lenses, refractive surgery, and orthokeratology (Ortho-K) lenses.
 
Glasses and contact lenses work by bending light as it enters the eye, allowing the light to focus on the retina properly.
 
Refractive surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, reshapes the cornea to improve its ability to refract light. Ortho-K lenses are unique contact lenses that reshape the cornea overnight, providing clearer vision during the day.[1]
 
Your eye doctor can help guide you toward the best option for your needs and lifestyle.
 

I’ve tried a fix, but I still can’t see from far away

Although we often visit opticians for help treating nearsightedness, the solutions may not always work perfectly. If you still have problems seeing from far away, it may be due to several reasons;
 

Outdated prescription

 
Nearsightedness is a common issue where objects up close appear clearly, but objects farther away can be blurry or difficult to see. However, an outdated prescription can also contribute, as changes in our vision can occur so gradually that we may need to realize our prescription needs an update. That’s why regular eye checkups are essential.
 
An ophthalmologist can evaluate your eye health and vision and update your prescription as necessary, ensuring you have the clearest vision possible. Taking care of your eyes and getting regular checkups can help you maintain good vision and prevent vision problems.
 

Cataracts

 
Another potential culprit is cataracts. They are a common age-related condition where the eye’s lens becomes clouded. This can make objects appear blurry or hazy and become increasingly severe.[2]
 
Illustration of cataracts, which occur when the eye's natural lens becomes cloudy

Cataracts occur when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy, making things appear blurry. Source: AOA

 
Cataracts can be treated with routine surgery to replace the cloudy lens with a clear artificial one. If you’re experiencing symptoms of cataracts, such as difficulty seeing at night, blurry vision, or seeing a halo around lights, visit your eye doctor to get an accurate diagnosis and discuss potential treatment options.
 

Glaucoma

 
This eye condition damages the optic nerve (which transports electrical signals from the retina to the brain) and can lead to vision loss, particularly in peripheral vision.[3]
 
Illustration of how glaucoma can cause damage to the optic nerve and eventually lead to blindness if left untreated

Glaucoma damages the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss, particularly in peripheral vision. Source: Mayo Clinic

 
Unfortunately, glaucoma can be difficult to detect in its early stages, but regular eye exams can help to identify it.
 
Treatment for glaucoma often involves prescription eye drops or medication, but in some cases, surgery may be necessary to maintain the patient’s vision. If you notice any changes in your vision or experience any discomfort or pain in your eyes, see your ophthalmologist immediately to get a proper diagnosis.
 

Age-related macular degeneration

 
This common progressive eye disease affects the macula, the retina’s central portion responsible for central vision. As it progresses, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can cause blurriness or a blind spot in the center of your field of vision, making it difficult to recognize faces, read, or drive.[4]
 
Illustration of how macular degeneration affects the central part of the retina responsible for detailed vision

Age-related macular degeneration affects the macula, causing blurriness or a blind spot. Source: Epping Surgery Centre

 
While there is no known cure for AMD, treatments can help slow its progression and preserve remaining vision. These treatments may include medications, injections, or laser therapy.
 
It’s important to schedule regular eye exams to diagnose AMD early and determine the best action to maintain your vision over time.
 

Other possible reasons for nearsightedness

You might have prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness. This condition impairs a person’s ability to recognize or distinguish between human faces. While the actual occurrences of prosopagnosia are unknown, it is estimated to affect around 2.5% of the population.
 
Symptoms can range from difficulty recognizing familiar people and their expressions to an inability to distinguish faces. The causes of this condition vary greatly, but research has identified genetic components, brain trauma, and neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, as the most common causes.
 
If you’re having trouble recognizing faces, it could be that you are living with prosopagnosia. It’s essential to speak with your doctor for more information and to explore other potential causes of your symptoms.
 

How to diagnose prosopagnosia

 
A diagnosis of prosopagnosia may be confirmed following an extensive eye exam, where your doctor uses a series of tests to assess your vision and ability to recognize faces and other objects.[5] They may also ask questions about your background, family history, and lifestyle to understand your symptoms better.
 
With the help of specialized tests such as face recognition tasks, object recognition tasks, and emotional expression tests, your doctor can accurately diagnose prosopagnosia if present.
 

Curability and treatment methods

 
Despite no known cure for prosopagnosia, various treatment methods may help improve your ability to recognize faces and other objects. These include using visual aids, such as flashcards, that can help you memorize distinctive facial features.
 
Researchers are also working with prosopagnosia patients to develop tools that can help them improve their facial recognition skills.
 
researcher tracking eye movements of person with prosopagnosia

Researchers track eye movements to build tools that can help prosopagnosia patients. Source: Bournemouth University

 

Ways to manage prosopagnosia daily

 
If you get diagnosed with prosopagnosia, you can take different steps to manage your condition. For example, you can create an easy-to-reference list of people’s names, physical characteristics, and other distinguishing features.
 
Also, carrying a card that says you have face blindness can help to inform strangers about the condition and how it affects you. Finally, staying organized by creating notes and reminders for yourself can help manage this condition daily.
 

Possible more serious causes

Brain trauma, such as a stroke, can cause severe damage to one’s facial recognition skills and memory. Severe head injuries can disrupt the brain’s processing ability, leading to difficulty remembering faces and other visual information.
 
Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and autism spectrum disorder can also impair a person’s capacity to recognize faces. As a result, they may have trouble recognizing familiar faces or remembering names in social situations.
 

Consult a health care professional if you can’t see faces far away

Remember that being unable to see faces from far away can have different causes and impacts on your daily life. If you have this condition, seeking medical advice and exploring possible strategies to manage it is essential.
 
Regular eye checkups are the best way to catch potential vision conditions as early as possible and keep your sight healthy.
 

References

  • “What Is Orthokeratology?”, American Academy of Opthalmology.
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  • “Cataracts”, NIH National Eye Institute.
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  • “Glaucoma”, NIH National Eye Institute.
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  • “Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)”, NIH National Eye Institute.
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  • “Prosopagnosia (Face Blindness)”, Cleveland Clinic.
Phoebe Jade

Written by:

Phoebe Jade

Phoebe is a registered nurse, licensed teacher and writer who's passionate about creating content that educates and inspires.