Everything you need to know about eyeglasses, patching and contacts
Updated: May 16
So, you’ve taken your child to the optometrist and everything you’ve dreaded comes true – your child needs eyeglasses. Picking out glasses for your child (and getting him or her to wear them) may seem overwhelming. This post is here to help parents with everything you need to know about eyeglasses, as well as other common treatments for vision problems such as patching and contacts.
Some of the most common vision problems in children are called refractive errors. These include nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism but all result in blurry vision. If your child is diagnosed with a refractive error or other vision problem at their eye exam they will likely be fitted for glasses. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing glasses for your child:
Frames – You can generally choose between metal and plastic frames. Metal frames are more adjustable and lighter. While they may bend, they don’t break as easily. If your child has any allergies that may be found in metal (ie. nickel) make sure to inquire about hypoallergenic frames. Plastic frames don’t get bent out of shape as easily, but the hinges are less flexible so they can break.
Lenses – The optical prescription will determine how thick the lens will be. Avoid choosing glass lenses for children as they are heavy and can crack or break easily. A good choice for children’s lenses should be polycarbonate or Trivex. These are comfortable, lightweight, and scratch resistant while also offering a bit of UV protection.
Spring hinges – Another feature you may want to look for is temples with spring hinges. Since, as I’m sure you’re aware, children can be rough with their things, spring hinges allow the temples to flex outward without causing damage. They can help prevent the need for frequent adjustments and repairs, saving you time and money. Spring hinges are also recommended for toddlers.
The good news is that children’s glasses come in a wide variety of shapes and colours. If your child is old enough, they may want to pick out a pair that makes them feel good and confident. Most parents are worried that they’ll have a hard time getting their child to wear eyeglasses. The fact is though, most kids who really need glasses will be happy to wear them as they realize how much their vision improves. Toddlers may reject their glasses when not in a good mood (much like everything else!). Getting used to wearing eyeglasses may be a transition and it’s important for parents to keep a positive attitude to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Patching is recommended when a child is diagnosed with amblyopia (lazy eye). It works by covering the eye that has normal vision so that the amblyopic (poorer seeing) eye can get a chance to improve. In other words, you are exercising the weaker eye to catch up to the strong one.
An eye patch with adhesive on the back is best and it should be large enough to completely cover your child’s eye. Your child will have to wear the patch for several hours a day for a few months or possibly even years, depending on the severity of the condition. Since this might be a challenge for some kids, it’s best to set a plan to make it less of a struggle. Figure out the time you think would be best for your child to wear the patch. Would morning hours be best for your child? In the evening? During school? Your child must wear their patch during waking hours. Once you have your plan be sure to stick to it. Some children might like to decorate their patch by colouring it or using stickers. This might make wearing the patch more enjoyable.
There’s actually no minimum age for contact lenses. That being said, they are a big responsibility, which is why many optometrists recommend children to start wearing them around ages 8-11. A child may prefer contact lenses to glasses for several reasons – maybe they find their glasses uncomfortable or would prefer contacts for moving around during sports. It’s up to you as a parent to listen to your child’s concerns and also consider whether your child is up to the task of caring for them.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing contacts for your child:
Lenses – There are a few different types of lenses. Soft lenses are common as they are flexible and easy to adapt to. They are comfortable for children but require sterilizing and cleaning. Rigid Gas Permeable Lenses (RGP), also called hard lenses, allow oxygen to pass through, making them more breathable but they are generally more uncomfortable for children and can cause itchiness. Disposable lenses are like soft lenses that can be discarded after a set time.
Risks – There are a few risks when considering contacts, the most common being eye infections. If your child is prone to infection, contacts may not be the best choice. Other risks include allergic reactions, corneal abrasions, and irritation.
It’s important to always talk to your optometrist about the right treatment for your child, whether it be eyeglasses, patching or contact lenses. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and make sure to keep your child’s unique interests in mind.