Did you recently find out that your little one needs prescription glasses? Worried? We understand your anxiety. ParentCircle in conversation with an ophthalmologist, answers some pressing questions.
By Amrita Gracias
One evening, Ramya gets a call from her nine-year-old daughter Amrita’s teacher who informs her that Amrita is struggling to read from the blackboard. A flood of thoughts flashes through a worried Ramya’s mind:
'Does my daughter need glasses?'
'Will she feel okay wearing glasses?'
'Will her classmates make fun of her?'
'What will relatives and friends say?'
Soon, guilt and anxiety kick in thanks to the growing list of ‘ifs and buts’. An anxious Ramya takes Amrita to an ophthalmologist, who confirms her worst fears. Amrita needs prescription glasses for short-sightedness. And, as expected, the little girl is troubled at the thought of having to wear this ‘odd object’ on her face through the day.
Amrita is not alone. According to a study titled, ‘Is too much screen time harming children’s vision?’, published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2018, too much of screen time causes harm to the visual development of children. How can parents and children handle the ‘prospect’ of glasses?
We talk to Dr Satyanarayana Rao M, a leading ophthalmologist in Hyderabad, who gives us an in-depth perspective on the subject. It’s a ParentCircle exclusive.
We are witnessing a significant increase in the number of children requiring prescription glasses. What do you think is happening?
Most often, parents bring their child for an eye check-up because there are complaints from school that she is unable to see the blackboard clearly and is making mistakes in copying the content to his notebook. This is the earliest indication that the child has a blurry vision and may need glasses.
Blurry vision is caused when the shape of the eye prevents light from focussing directly on the retina. This is also known as refractive error. Another recurrent problem is the ‘computer vision syndrome’ that occurs when a child stares at the television, mobile screen or computer monitor for too long without blinking. This causes drying of the eye thereby resulting in blurred vision. Parents must restrict the screen time their child gets.
What can happen if parents ignore this condition and do not take their child for an eye check-up?
Many children are born with some amount of defective vision. So, ideally, your child must have his eyes checked before he starts preschool. If your child is detected to have positive power, negative power or cylindrical power due to refractive error in at least one eye, he will need to wear glasses as prescribed. If this is ignored, it could lead to a ‘lazy eye’. This refers to the lack of coordination between one eye and the brain. The eye looks normal, but it is not being used normally because the brain is favouring the other eye. This leads to a reduced vision in one eye.
Apart from blurred vision, are there any other reasons for which my child may need glasses?
‘Crossed eyes’ is another reason why a child may require glasses. When the vision is poor, a child may appear to cross and squint her eyes to focus. Sometimes, a squint occurs when a child requires glasses but does not wear them.
In such cases, a doctor may prescribe necessary glasses along with exercises to help correct the squint. Often, squints are normal for children up to the age of three as the visual fixation begins only later. If the squint is not corrected by the age of five, treatment or surgery may be required.
What are the common worries that parents have when their child needs to wear glasses?
Parents are mostly concerned when their child requires glasses at an early age. They also worry that their child may refuse to wear the glasses or takes them off frequently.
What you’re saying is that a child should be wearing glasses all day…
Since there is no other option available to correct blurred vision, it is important parents understand the need to ensure their child wears glasses through the day. A child needs to wear glasses from the time he wakes up till he goes to bed. Slowly but surely, you should convey this message to your child.
Further, in school, the teacher must ensure the child wears his glasses all the time. Additionally, accessories like headbands or retainers help keep the glasses in place. These are colourful, yet functional, and the child may be enticed to wear them.
Another option available these days is ‘perma-wear contact lenses’. These are soft lenses that can be worn permanently. They are a suitable alternative for older children who may remove or refuse to wear their glasses constantly. These lenses can be replaced once they wear out.
How often should my child be brought for an eye check-up?
Children who wear glasses must have periodic check-ups. If they have high power, they can get their eyes checked every three months. Once the power is stable, they can be brought in, once in six months. As they grow older, they can have their eyes checked once a year.
Are there any nutritional supplements or food that can help improve eyesight for a child who needs to wear glasses?
Contrary to widespread belief, once a child has been diagnosed with refractive power and needs to wear glasses, no amount of supplements or eyesight-correcting food like carrots can help improve her vision! Wearing glasses constantly will help.
If a child has eye power, can he use sunglasses?
Yes, a child who wears powered glasses can use sunglasses as well. During summer, excessive heat can cause irritation to the eye. Your child can wear sunglasses with power while going out in the sun. In general, parents must ensure they buy the right UV-protected sunglasses. Cheap ones without UV protection can be harmful.
Nirmala Guru, a leading counsellor from Chennai, shares tips on making your child comfortable with wearing glasses.
If your child is worried or intimidated by his new look, you can help boost his confidence by talking about these popular characters who wear glasses.
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