Common questions regarding children’s vision
Why does a child need glasses?
Children may need glasses for several reasons—some of which are different than for adults. Because a child’s vision system is growing and developing, especially during the first 5-6 years of life, glasses may play an important role in insuring normal vision development. The main reasons a child may need glasses are:
• To provide better vision, so that a child may function better in his/her environment
• To help straighten the eyes when they are crossed or misaligned (strabismus)
• To help strengthen the vision of a weak eye (amblyopia or “lazy eye”). This may occur when there is a difference in prescription between the two eyes (anisometropia). For example, one eye may be normal, while the other eye may have a significant need for glasses caused by near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism.
• To provide protection for one eye if the other eye has poor vision
How can a child be tested for glasses, especially in infancy or early childhood?
Through a complete eye examination. Often, the pupils are dilated with drops in order to relax the focusing muscles, so that an accurate measurement can be obtained. By using a special instrument called a retinoscope, the optometrist can arrive at an accurate prescription.
What are the different types of refractive errors (need for glasses) that can affect children?
There are 4 basic types of refractive errors:
1) Myopia (short-sighted) – This is a condition where the distance vision is blurred, but a child can usually see well for reading or other near tasks. This occurs most often in school-age children, although occasionally younger children can be affected. The prescription for glasses will indicate a minus sign before the prescription (e.g. -2.00).
2) Hyperopia (long-sighted) – Many children are long-sighted early in life (this is normal!) and need no treatment for this because they can use their own focusing muscles to provide clear vision for both distant and near vision. When an excessive amount of long-sightedness is present, the focusing muscles may not be able to keep the vision clear. As a result of this, problems such as crossing of the eyes, blurred vision, or discomfort may develop. A prescription for hyperopia will be preceded by a plus sign (e.g. +3.00).
3) Astigmatism – Astigmatism is caused by a difference in the surface curve of the eye. Instead of being shaped like a perfect sphere (like a basketball), the eye is shaped with a greater curve in one axis (like a football). If your child has a significant astigmatism, fine details may look blurred or distorted. Glasses that are prescribed for astigmatism have greater strength in one direction of the lens than in the opposite direction. A prescription for astigmatism will have several numbers and will look something like this: -2.00/-2.50 x 90.
4) Anisometropia Some children may have unequal focussing between each eye. This can create a condition called amblyopia, where the vision in one eye does not develop normally. Glasses (and sometimes patching) are needed to insure that each eye can see clearly.
How will I ever get my child to wear glasses?
That is a question most parents ask, especially when their child is an infant or toddler. The best answer is that most young children who really need glasses will wear their glasses without a problem (happily) because they do make a difference to their vision. Initially, some children may show some resistance to wearing their glasses, but it is necessary for parents to demonstrate a positive attitude. Toddlers often may wear the glasses only when they are in a good mood and reject them when they are not. Getting a frame fitted by someone who is experienced in paediatric eyewear is also of great importance.
Will wearing glasses make my child’s eyes worse or more dependent on them?
No. In fact, the opposite may be true. If a child does not wear the glasses prescribed, normal vision development can be adversely affected.