Glasses for Kids’ Eye Problems
Just like people, eyes come in many different shapes and sizes. With this, may arise the need for glasses. In children there tends to be a few different types of eye problems:
- Eye turns and lazy eyes. Eye turns may be easily spotted, but not so lazy eyes. The two don’t always occur together. It takes a trained eye to diagnose a turned or lazy eye, and common misconceptions such as “he’ll grow out of it” are rarely true past the age of 4-6 months.
- Sight based problems. These occur due to “refractive error”, where the eye shape causes a focusing error. There are a few types: shortsight (myopia); longsight (hyperopia) and astigmatism.
- Hidden vision problems. So named because they don’t affect sight. Rather they are associated with the fine muscle control of the eyes involved in focusing, eye teaming and tracking/eye movements. They can adversely affect attention, concentration, comprehension or cause sore eyes, headaches or fuzzy vision.
Finding out your child needs glasses can be a stressful time! If you have a family history of eye problems it may not come as a complete shock, but for others the diagnosis just seems to come out of the blue. As the owner of a children’s optometry practice, I have seen and heard it all. So, here is my advice for transitioning your child happily into wearing glasses.
Don’t blame yourself
What did I miss? Why didn’t I notice they had eye problems? How much have they missed out on? This is a natural reaction for some parents. What many people fail to realise is that the act of seeing should happen automatically, and as such we tend to take it for granted. Children just assume that how they see is the same as everyone else. The important thing is that now you have found the problem, it is important to do something about it. Children shouldn’t fear wearing glasses, and so it is important to remain positive. For older children you should also explain to them with the help of your Optometrist, the importance of their glasses, in simple terms.
All lenses are custom made to some extent. A stock lens is premade to the prescription, but still needs to be cut to a frame. A grind lens is custom made entirely. Lens technology has changed dramatically in recent years. As such, it is important to realise that not all lenses are created equal! When weighing up lenses, here are some important points to consider:
- Lens Thickness & Weight. The lens can add a lot of weight to a frame, and as such little noses. Always ask about lens thickness, as there are many options in lens density and design to reduce lens thickness and weight.
- Scratch resistance. Hardened coatings should be applied to both sides of the lenses to help prevent scratching, but be warned, nothing is scratch proof!
- Safety. Gone are the days of dangerous glass lenses, but impact resistance is still important, especially for young or rough and tumble kids as chipping or cracking may occur. My preference is to use a mid-density material with superior impact resistance, similar to safety lenses.
- Single vision, bifocal, multifocal designs refer to the number of optical zones in a lens. In some cases, it is necessary to give a different optical strength for distance than for near viewing. Once again, technology has changed, and even bifocals can be manufactured now with an “invisible line”. However, the type of lens is part of the prescription and should never be altered without first consulting your optometrist.
There are typically two types: metal and plastic. But that’s where the simplicity ends! Kids are literally spoilt for choice with a wide range of brands, colours, designs and looks. So what do kids like?
- Colour & more colour! Parents often want the “invisible look” with glasses. Usually kids don’t. They don’t have the same reservations as us, and if they have to wear glasses, then they usually love colour! I say go with it – we are only young once!
- Durability. This varies considerably but generally speaking durability will make a difference to the price. Ideally look for frames that have a spring-loaded temple for greater flexibility when taking them on and off. Be cautious of buying overly “flexy” frames that bend through the nose piece as heavier lenses may actually bend the frame out of shape!
- Fit. They don’t have to fit perfectly when trying them on. Ask questions of your eye care professional, as they should be able to guide you to a correct fit. All frames will require some individual fitting to your child’s face. As such, don’t ask your child to choose solely based on what fits well initially (as this can be modified), rather your child should also choose what they like the look of. Never choose frames with too much growing room, as they will not fit comfortably.
- Trouble choosing? If your child is hesitant, then try some frames on yourself first. If you already wear glasses, put them on. If your child is really distressed, go home, talk about it calmly, and return later when they have calmed down. Though this rarely happens! On the other hand, if your child can’t decide on a selection, then keep the choosing simple. From a group of frames, compare just two at a time, and then eliminate one out each time, until you end up with their most favourite!
Lasting the distance
Teaching your child proper care and maintenance of their glasses is vital. Even young children should be encouraged to remove or put them on correctly. For school aged children, have your eye care professional explain how to clean the lenses with spray, how to avoid scratching, how to take them on and off and how to store them in a hard case.
The most important thing to remember about kids’ vision problems is that you cannot assume their eyes are fine. Only a thorough check up of their sight, focusing, eye teaming and eye movements by a trained professional can assure you of this. And if there is a problem that requires glasses, gone are the days of daggy glasses. Glasses can look and be just as individual and cool as your child!