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Home >> Members & Consumers >> Does Your Child Need Glasses?

Does Your Child Need Glasses?

It's a fact: Today, more than 20 percent of America's 40 million school-age children — over one in five — are affected by vision problems that can pose a significant threat to learning.

Given that rather alarming statistic, most parents are eager to make sure their kids receive the high-quality eyecare necessary for success in the classroom. But how is a concerned parent to know whether a preschool or grade-school child needs prescription eyewear?

The answer is quite simple, says VSP network doctor Carol Marusich, O.D., a children's eyecare specialist. "When it comes to protecting children's eyesight — with or without glasses — the good news for parents is that most vision disorders in kids can be quickly and painlessly corrected," says the Eugene, Ore., optometrist, who lectures frequently on pediatric eyecare around the country. "All a parent really has to do is bring the child in for regular eye exams — while also watching out for a few key warning signs that could signal a vision problem."

When should the eye exams take place? Dr. Marusich recommends that children first visit their family eyecare doctor at the age of 6 months to be sure their eyes are developing normally. Additional exams should be scheduled when the child's eyes have finished growing and developing (ages 3-4), and then again before the youngster begins kindergarten, usually at age 5. After that, children should receive an eye exam every year.

During these evaluations, the eyecare doctor can easily determine if the child has a vision condition that requires glasses. Such conditions can include nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), structural irregularity in the eye (astigmatism) and a few other conditions — such as amblyopia, or "lazy eye" — in which eye muscles fail to properly align or coordinate movements required for effective vision.

"Although it's true that glasses can often improve a child's vision, they aren't always the appropriate treatment," says Dr. Marusich. "Rather than just asking, 'Does my child need glasses,' it might be better to ask: 'Are my child's eyes developing normally?'

"Regular eye exams can give you the answer to that question. And these exams don't have to be unpleasant or uncomfortable for kids. Believe it or not, eye exams in our office are lots of fun! I think the biggest compliment I've ever received came from a 3-year-old a few years ago after her eye exam.

"After I'd finished testing this little girl's eyes and was about to say goodbye, she looked up and asked me, 'OK, when are you gonna start my test?"

Warning Signs
Between regular eye exams, if you notice any warning signs that your child might need glasses, quickly take him or her to the eyecare doctor for an evaluation.

Here are some key warning signs that could signal the need for glasses, according toVSP network doctor Carol Marusich, O.D., a children's vision specialist in Eugene, Ore.:

  • The child squints while looking at distant objects or holds books close to the eyes to read them more easily. These symptoms may indicate nearsightedness or farsightedness. Both can be corrected with glasses.

  • One of the child's eyes keeps drifting out of alignment with the other. It's especially important to correct this disorder — known as amblyopia, or "lazy eye" — in younger children so they don't end up wearing a corrective eye patch in grade school.

  • The child closes one eye to see objects better. This habit could signal the presence of a vision-distorting astigmatism or other vision deficiency.

  • The youngster rubs the eyes frequently or complains that his or her head hurts. This discomfort may be caused by eyestrain related to several conditions that can be corrected with glasses.

Author: Tom Nugent,
Staywell Custom Communications

Reviewed By:
Denis Humphreys, O.D.
VSP Optometry Director

Christian Serdahl, M.D.
VSP Medical Director

Last Reviewed: October, 2005

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