It starts slowly — your child begins to squint at the television or complains that he has to move closer to the front of the class to see the blackboard. Your child is becoming myopic, or nearsighted. He can see objects very well up close, but far away they are a big old blurry mess.
Myopia is very common, and is most often diagnosed as your child enters adolescence and experiences a growth spurt. If you or your spouse (or both) are myopic, chances are your child will be as well. You child will need glasses or contact lenses to correct his vision. Other common eye conditions that require glasses or contact lenses include hyperopia (farsightedness), where far away objects are clear and close objects are blurry; and astigmatism, where both far and close objects are blurry.
Some kids might not tell you that they are having trouble seeing; they may be embarrassed or not understand that there is a problem. Here are some signs your child needs corrective lenses:
- Recurrent headaches
- Falling grades
- Frequent eye-rubbing
- Frequent squinting
Helpful tips for children who need corrective lenses
If your child needs corrective lenses, you can make an appointment with an ophthalmologist or an optometrist. Your child will receive a vision test to determine the strength of the lenses needed. Your child may be self-conscious about wearing glasses, so be patient and understanding.
- Find a model. Any role models – real or imagined – can help children adjust to the idea. If you wore glasses as a youngster, get out the old pictures and show him. Television characters or characters from literature (such as Harry Potter) can also help children warm up to the idea.
- Get fitted correctly. A child's face is not just a smaller version of an adult’s; noses and cheeks are proportioned differently. And as your child grows, so will her face shape. Make sure the person who fits the glasses is experienced in fitting children.
- Let her be choosy. Letting your child choose her frames will help ensure she wears the glasses. If the correction is especially strong, ask your optician about using thinner and lighter lenses.
- Help avoid replacements. Children are likely to be tough on glasses. Choose a strong frame — metal or plastic — with flexible hinges. And for safety, the lenses should be made of a shatter resistant plastic called polycarbonate.
- Consider contacts. Your child may prefer to wear contact lenses. There’s no set age for when this can happen; it depends on how responsible your child is. Contact lenses need more care than glasses, and can be easily lost if they’re dislodged from the eye. However, they’re great for sports and other recreational uses, and may improve performance.
- Be “sun safe.” Children are at a higher risk for sun damage because their eyes are less likely to block harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Kids also spend more time outdoors. Make sure your child wears sunglasses with 100 UV protection. Often, there is an option to choose a protective UV coating on the prescription lenses. Flip-down sun lenses are available for kids who wear regular glasses.
Contributed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello, MD