About a few weeks ago, we made a decision to get Lexi glasses. After a yearly trip to an ophthalmologist, we found out that Lexi was nearsighted (she can see well close up but not far away) and could possibly need glasses. The doctor didn’t seem so sure that she HAD to have them, if we didn’t want to get them, but after figuring out how she must be seeing and reading up on some studies, we decided that it was necessary. So that same day, we took her to a local lens store and got her two pairs of glasses.
We had an idea that it would happen sooner or later, as Andrew’s side of the family have all been in glasses since a very early age, especially the females. Given that childhood onset myopia (nearsightedness) is primarily genetic, we figured she would need glasses at some point, but, of course, hoped that she wouldn’t, since no one in my side of family was myopic before 17 years of age (which is the age where the line between a genetically inherited childhood onset myopia and adult myopia gets drawn).
It turns out, based on the studies I’ve read, that having one parent with childhood onset myopia is just as bad as having two! That part was a surprise and I just discovered it a week or so ago in my continued reading about myopia. You have 43% chance of becoming myopic before age of 17, if one of your parents was myopic (again in childhood only), and you have 45% chance if you have two parents. Not a big difference. (Only 12% chance if no myopic parents, just fyi). That’s given certain lifestyles that I will talk about later.
So here we were. Lexi needs glasses to see clearly. So we went to get glasses. It was amazing to see her reaction. Her vision needed enough correction that she saw a big difference. She could now see sharp lights in the distance, not just blurs. The carpet floor that she has been walking on in the store was now a sharp pattern rather than slightly smudged grey (I am assuming, because she kept staring at it).
Everything was brand new and shiny! She was seeing the world anew! You cannot imagine the excitement in both of us when it happened.
We had no problems with having her keep her glasses on. She took to them instantly. She was always so good keeping her sunglasses on, but this time her glasses helped her see. There was no denying that, so she kept them on. She does take them off to breastfeed, and we take them off to read as well (to reduce accommodation), but otherwise she keeps them on almost all the time.
I cannot tell you how glad we were that we were able to catch it this early before it got worse. That she didn’t go for years unnoticed, because regular vision screening checks aren’t a norm for young kids right now. Knowing that made all the difference in the world. (well and the fact that she looks soooooo cute in glasses helped too).
I have learned so much information during this discovery that was not widely available to us or most other parents. Even some ophthalmologists aren’t caught up on the recent studies which is a shame, because if you were myopic as a kid and you have a child now, there are steps that can be taken to help slow down the development of myopia in your kid.
We are in a good routine now with glasses, as well as our plan for the future. I will be getting her a few more frames that are lighter colored and more rounded that they didn’t have at the store once we confirm her prescription and sizing, and we have an appointment with a specialist in Miami for a second opinion. But for now we are in a good place with all of this.
I’ve also been asked a ton of questions since Lexi started wearing glasses. Mostly from concerned parents who had to wear glasses as kids and have a higher chance of passing it down to their child. I have read up on a lot of studies, asked a lot of questions myself and I feel like I have a good handle on what is going on and what can or cannot be done. I’ll go over the common questions and then talk a bit about what I found out on my own that is pretty interesting stuff.
Table of Contents
How did you find out Lexi needed glasses?
At 6 months, at our request, our pediatrician gave us a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist to check Lexi’s eye that seemed to be turning in. It turned out to be a common lid issue, that simply covered one eye more than the other, creating that illusion, because babies don’t have a distinct bone there. They all grow out of it, once the bone becomes more prominent. But the key was no issues with the eye. Whew! The ophthalmologist asked us to follow up at a year which we did. At that time she showed some nearsightedness which he said will most likely correct itself by 2. So we followed up again at 2 and that’s when we discovered the nearsightedness didn’t go away, but actually progressed. That puts us at a few weeks ago.
How can they tell what their vision is at such a young age?
They use an instrument called auto-refractor. Our appointment consisted of a dilation and a bunch of “look here, look there”. He put lenses in front of her, looked in the eye, made sure the eyes were healthy. And then gave the diagnosis that her eyes were healthy but that she was myopic. He kept downplaying it like it was no biggie. I am sure he sees many actual problems with the eye than isn’t “simple myopia”. But for us having our daughter not be able to see clearly IS a biggie.
Were there any signs you saw?
The answer is pretty much no. The reason why I say “pretty much” is because now looking back at it, I understand better, but we just never attributed it to bad eyesight. Toddlers are funny, you can almost never tell they can’t see clearly (especially with nearsightedness). She didn’t squint when looking in the distance. Her eyes didn’t act funny. She didn’t complain of blur. She didn’t rub her eyes extensively. That’s the worrisome part. Most myopia in children isn’t even detected till they go to school and can’t see the blackboard, but sometimes that is just too late because it was allowed to progress without correction. And the effect of not being able to see for all those years! That’s one of the positives I am taking out of this whole experience! With corrected vision, she can experience everything anew, early on and hopefully keep the progression in check.
Looking back at it, it makes sense why she wasn’t interested in the Safari ride at Disney. She seemed to see the animals, but quickly lost interest in each one and wanted to breastfeed due to the bumpy ride. Of course! If it’s just the shape of the animal, I’d be bored too. We simply attributed it to her not being interested. The strange part is that she saw it all: birds, moon, animals, cars- all things far away. Or at least appeared to see. I have learned in my reading that little kids have an amazing ability to adjust their vision in a way that an adult can’t. Sort of how the brain simply fills in the picture for them. So she probably saw much better than we give her credit for but she still wasn’t seeing clearly. Even now in glasses she isn’t too interested in the zoo animal, so I still don’t know if that was a sign of nearsightedness or what.
So the point is, if that’s all they know, they won’t complain or tell you or show signs. It’s very hard to detect. This is one of the reasons why I am surprised vision screening isn’t mandatory from 1-2 years of age, especially in America where 50% of people are myopic and aside from myopia, there is a whole host of childhood eye problems, like farsightedness, glaucoma, cataracts, etc
Did you have any issues with getting her to wear glasses?
No, not at all! She could see better and that was enough for her to wear them happily. She occasionally takes them off and throws them down when she is frustrated, but she is 2, so that’s too be expected. In general, she is learning to treat her glasses with respect and always either gives them to us or puts them on a shelf.
Does she wear them all the time?
Yes and no! Right now, we take them off for reading and other close up activities to reduce accommodation ( focusing of the eye) and she takes them off during breastfeeding. We’ll be talking to a Miami specialist about progressive glasses that she would wear constantly. Other than that, they are on almost all the time.
I have read a lot of studies and excepts. I am still continuing to read, but here is the low down.
WRONG: NOT WEARING GLASSES will help strengthen your vision
Some people wrongfully believe that if you don’t wear glasses, then you will allow your eyes to train themselves to see better and that by wearing glasses you’re making them “lazy”. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Aside from faulty logic there based on lack of knowledge about how the eye works, the studies have shown again and again that the WORST progression of myopia happens when the vision isn’t corrected by glasses or contacts. By straining your eyes to try and see, you’re only worsening it. The less accommodation (focusing) your eyes have to make, the less the degree of myopia progression.
WRONG: READING A LOT MAKES YOUR VISION WORSE
This was surprising to me. They have a million studies out there showing that reading and other close up work has absolutely NO effect on whether a child will become myopic or not. So is watching TV close up, or playing video games. In fact, you would have to spend 8-9 hours a day reading or doing near activity to cause myopia with it.
Do you know the one thing that DOES have an effect on whether your child will become myopic or not?
It’s like the STOP signal to the growth of the eye (which is what makes myopia worse as kids grow). Just 1-2 hours a day is enough to offset the effects 8-9 hours of close work based on some studies.
They are not yet sure whether it’s the outdoor light (scientists think that’s the most likely the case), or the focusing in the distance, or UV rays, or peripheral vision, that creates the protective effect, but THE MORE time you spend outdoors, the bigger the protective effect. Study after study showed that correlation! Regardless of amount of time spent on near work/reading/playing/computer work, children who spend 14 or more hours a week outside have a much smaller chance of developing myopia. Aside from genetics, it was the ONLY other variable that made a difference in myopia in most studies. It was especially protective (in my opinion) of those children who only had 1 parent who was myopic as a child.
And the more they play outside the better it is, with each weekly hour accounting for a 2% improvement in progression of myopia. That, to me, is amazing news that should be shared with EVERY PARENT!
If you can up the odds of your child not developing or slowing down the development of myopia (in high risk situations with myopic parents) by just spending as much time outdoors as possible, then it’s the best “cure” .
Remember how I talked about chances of becoming myopic if one or two of your parents were myopic as kids? Well, that changes to much better odds with one parent, if you have 2 hours or more outdoor time daily. Obviously, it’s not fool-proof or works for everyone- everyone’s genetics and reasons for/development of myopia are different, but statistically it’s a significant difference.
It’s also surprising how much only two hours a day can be especially when you’re dealing with a toddler. We live in Florida, so a lot of time time is spent outdoors as it is. However, 2 hours can still be a challenge some days, because you have naps, activities, reading, toy play and constant mealtimes, so by the time that’s all done, it’s dark outside. Lexi is a voracious reader, so she would ask us to read book after book after book. We now take that activity outside, just in case it ends up helping 🙂 It’s just about restructuring the time to allow for the maximum outdoor time before the day is over, which in the beginning was an interesting adjustment. But now?
It’s actually pretty cool. I am coming up with more outdoor activities, we are building a swing set (that was in progress before I found out about outdoor time), we have amazing Monkey Bars, I am going to plant more flowers and have Lexi help me with them. Lexi asks to go outside all the time now, while before she was often reluctant, unless we were going to a playground. She would have rather sat and read in my lap than gone outside on some days. We’ve always gone to playgrounds and bike riding, ran around the backyard, but now it happens daily. And I have to say that I am loving this new way. I always used to be an outdoorsy person, but my husband hates anything to do with sand or bugs, cold or hot, he just doesn’t like being outside, so I was starting to do the same thing myself, but now I am re-invigorated by the prospect of being outside as much as possible.
I think this experience and everything I learned from it deserved being passed onto other parents, rather than just a recap of how we got glasses.
S0 the lesson of the day: get your kids eyes tested and get them outside!
Edit: If you decide that you want to get your kid checked out, make sure to go to an ophthalmologist, since they also check for eye health and have a comprehensive screening. Aside from myopia, there is a host of other things that can make your child’s vision “funky”. Ideally, vision checks should be done yearly, because you can develop myopia or other issues at any time. So it should become a part of yearly screenings, like wellness checks, dermatologists visits and so on.