This is a guest blog entry about Children’s Vision by Ann Zawistoski from Little Four Eyes, a community for parents of young children in glasses.
We’re all used to seeing adults and school-aged children in glasses, but the sight of a toddler or baby sporting specs often leaves people puzzled. While glasses on a baby or toddler are less prevalent than on older kids and adults, they’re still needed by some of the youngest out there. In fact, diagnosing and treating vision issues in young children is extremely important to their visual development, and according to one study, more than 1 in 20 preschoolers should be wearing glasses. Unfortunately, that same study found that only 1 in 100 of the children did wear glasses. (1)
Why do young children wear glasses?
Young children usually wear glasses for the same reasons that anyone else does: to correct their vision so they can see better.Like most adults in glasses, most children who wear glasses do so to correct refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism), others need glasses due to cataracts, glaucoma, or a host of other vision issues. Some children also wear glasses as protection if they have only one good eye.
Are glasses actually necessary for young kids?
It’s commonly assumed that since kids under 5 aren’t reading books or blackboards yet, they don’t need glasses. And some fear that putting glasses on a young child will actively hurt their vision or cause them to become dependent on glasses.
Neither of those assumptions is true. So much of our learning is visual, and in young childhood while our visual system is still developing, it is especially important that it develop with good vision. Furthermore, pre-literacy skills depend on children being able to see a page and identify that the squiggles on the page represent words, and that those words are made up of distinct letters.
Children under 7 can also develop amblyopia (also called lazy eye), a condition in which the brain ignores the visual input from one eye. This comes about when one eye is seeing less clearly than the other, or if the eyes are not aligned, so the brain learns to ignore the input from one eye in order to stop seeing double. Glasses that correct the vision in the weaker eye, or providing correction to keep the eyes aligned will prevent amblyopia from developing, and is a vital part in the prevention of amblypia.
How do you know a young child needs glasses?
Most of us can clearly articulate why we need glasses or contacts. Most of us know what clear vision should look like, and are aware when our vision doesn’t live up to that. We’re likely to notice that street signs are difficult to read, or that it’s harder to focus on a book up close (even if we may want to deny that particular sign of aging). Very young children with vision issues, however, may not have ever seen the world clearly. They don’t know that they should be able to see squiggles on a book clearly, or be able to distinguish leaves on a tree. And even if they have had a recent change in vision, they likely do not have the vocabulary to express what’s wrong.
Add to that the fact that children are amazing at adapting to new situations, and it all makes it extremely difficult to tell if a child needs glasses.
Because of that, all children should have their vision checked regularly throughout their childhood, beginning in infancy.
If you notice any of the following with your child, you should have your child’s eyes checked by an eye care provider:
• White reflections from the camera flash in one or both eyes (this can be a sign of retinoblastoma, a serious condition, or it may be due to other issues, in all cases, if you notice this, you should have your child’s eyes examined as soon as possible by a pediatric ophthalmologist)
• Eyes that are not aligned (either crossed or wall-eyed)
• Eyes that move rapidly side to side
• Cloudiness in one or both eyes (see second picture to the right, note the cloudiness in the left eye.)
• Squinting or covering an eye when trying to focus on things
• Complaining of seeing double images
• Extreme aversion to sunlight
• Excessive tearing
(1) Giordano, L., Friedman, D., Repka, M., Katz, J., Ibironke, J., Hawes,
P., and Tielsch, J. Prevalence of Refractive Error among Preschool
Children in an Urban Population: The Baltimore Pediatric Eye Disease
Study. Ophthalmology, 2009, April, 116 (4): 739-746. http://
Ann Zawistoski is a reference librarian and runs Little Four Eyes, a community for parents of young children in glasses. All photos used with permission from Little Four Eyes and Stewart Snippets.
This post is by a guest blogger. The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of AC Lens or ACLens.com employees. Any medical references are opinion only. Please consult with your optometrist when making decisions regarding your vision care options.