Keeping an Eye on Your Child’s Vision
From allergies to nearsightedness, to the daily staring at digital screens, the hazards facing kids’ eyes give parents a lot to worry about. Below, Angeline Nguyen, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist in The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, breaks down the concerns you may have about your child’s vision, including the reason behind increased nearsightedness in kids, whether too much screen time can harm their eyes, and whether your child can outgrow the need for glasses.
1. What are some reasons that kids wear glasses?
Like adults, children can be nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism. These conditions would make it so your child requires glasses to see clearly. As opposed to adults, the concerning thing about young children needing glasses is that they are at risk of permanent unclear vision (a condition called amblyopia) if they don’t get their vision corrected with glasses in a timely manner.
2. It seems like more and more kids are in glasses these days. What is the reason behind this?
This is indeed a correct observation! More children are nearsighted now than before because of the increased near-activities that children are doing (such as using devices and schoolwork). Research has shown that spending more time indoors and doing activities up-close has led to increased rates of nearsightedness.
3. Is there a way to help prevent or reverse nearsightedness?
Unfortunately, nearsightedness cannot be reversed, but the more time children spend outdoors and avoid near-activities, the better for preventing nearsightedness. If your child is already nearsighted, then you can talk to an eye doctor (pediatric optometrist or pediatric ophthalmologist) about the various evidence-based therapies that are now available to help keep your child’s eyes from getting worse.
4. Is wearing glasses going to make my kid dependent on glasses to see?
Thankfully glasses do not create dependency, and it is extremely important if an eye doctor recommends glasses that your child wear their glasses all day in order to prevent amblyopia. The need to wear glasses full-time is especially important if your child is below 8 years of age, as this is the time their brains are still developing the ability to see clearly.
5. Are screens harmful to children’s eyes?
Thankfully, the light from screens is not harmful to your child’s eyes. However, spending many hours in front of a screen can lead to their eyes feeling achy and tired, a temporary condition called digital eye strain. Thankfully, there is no permanent damage related to this condition, and there are solutions to help decrease symptoms such as taking frequent breaks, looking far away to relax the eyes and remembering to blink often.
6. Do blue light-blocking glasses help?
Because blue light from the screen does not damage the eyes, as well as the lack of scientific evidence showing that blue-light blocking glasses decreases digital eye strain, the American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend any special eye wear for computer use.
7. How do I know if my child should get his/her vision checked?
Some children will squint or get really close to objects they are trying to see, but oftentimes children needing glasses do not realize they have a vision problem and will not show any signs of one. This is why your pediatrician checks your child’s vision regularly to determine if your child needs to be referred to an eye doctor for further evaluation.
8. I frequently see my child rub his/her eyes. Is this a sign of a serious eye problem?
Ocular allergies are the most common reason for eye rubbing in children. Although ocular allergies can be mild, it can also be very serious in some children and require prescription medications to avoid permanent vision loss. If you are concerned that your child’s eyes are uncomfortable, your pediatrician or your eye doctor can help determine the severity of the condition and recommend proper treatment for your child.
9. What is it like for my kid to have an eye exam?
If you or your pediatrician thinks that your child should see an eye doctor, then it is helpful to see a pediatric optometrist or pediatric ophthalmologist. Adult eye doctors often lack the equipment or expertise to manage conditions that are specific to children, and visiting a pediatric specialist will help put your child much more at ease.
The visit usually starts with the doctor assessing the child’s vision in an age-appropriate manner. The doctor will then place special eye drops to dilate your child’s eyes, which gives them a chance to properly check for your child’s glasses prescription and assess the overall health of their eyes. At the end of the visit, the doctor should be able to tell you how your child’s vision is, if they need glasses and how their ocular health is. They will recommend a follow-up exam if treatment or monitoring is recommended.
10. If a doctor recommends glasses, will my child need to wear them permanently?
The need for glasses changes as a child grows, so your eye doctor will likely recheck at least annually to determine whether or not your child still needs glasses. It is possible that your child may grow out of the need for glasses, or they can try contact lenses once they are mature enough to do so safely.