Why does a child need glasses?
Children may need glasses for several reasonssome
of which are different than for adults. Because a childs
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
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?
An ophthalmologist can detect the need for glasses
through a complete eye exam. Typically, the pupils are
dilated in order to relax the focusing muscles, so that
an accurate measurement can be obtained. By using a
special instrument, called a retinoscope, your eye doctor
can arrive at an accurate prescription. The ophthalmologist
will then advise parents whether there is a need for
glasses, or whether the condition can be monitored.
What are the different types of refractive errors
(need for glasses) that can affect children?
There are 4 basic types of refractive errors:
Myopia (near-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 (for example, -2.00). If
the myopia is slight, allowing a child to sit a
little closer to the front of the classroom may
be an alternative.
Hyperopia (far-sighted) Most children are
far-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. Glasses are rarely
needed if the far-sightedness is less than +1.00
or even +2.00. When an excessive amount of far-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 (+3.00).
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.
Anisometropia Some children may have a different
prescription in 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 in 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 (and
everything else) when they are not. Getting a good frame
fit by an optician who is experienced in pediatric eyewear
is also of great importance. The frame should be very
comfortable with the eye centered in the middle of the
lens. The frame should look like it fits the child nownot
one that he/she will grow into in a year. Lenses made
of a material called polycarbonate will provide the
best protection for your child because this lens material
is shatterproof. Many childrens frames have soft,
comfort-cables that fit around the ears.
School age children and their parents can provide input
into the decision regarding the need for glasses. Some
children may have small refractive errors that do not
require glasses, while others may voice concern about
difficulties in the classroom. Most children who have
difficulty with reading do not need glasses, but this
can be determined in the complete eye exam.
Does my child need bifocals?
Children rarely need bifocals. Occasionally, children
who have crossed eyes (esotropia) may need to have bifocals
to help control the crossing. Also, children who have
had cataract surgery often need bifocals or reading
Will wearing glasses make my childs 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.