Vision defects in children: when glasses are needed

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Marie-Ange Demory
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They are colorful, light, flexible, impact resistant. And they are needed to correct visual defects, such as myopia, astigmatism or farsightedness. From an early age. In fact, it is not true that you have to wait for the start of primary school to wear glasses. Indeed, in some situations, you can even think about the use of contact lenses. While it does not make much sense, in pediatric age, to resort to surgery.

Read also Children's view: 6 alarm bells

But what are the alarm bells to understand that something is wrong with your child's eyes? We asked Antonino della cittànzo, head of surgery and ophthalmology outpatient activity at the Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital in the city.


Myopia is a refractive defect that is measured in diopters. The greater the defect, the shorter the distance at which you can see well. For example, if your child is missing two diopters in his right eye, it means that he can see from eight meters a letter that a non-myopic person can distinguish from ten meters away. «It is in fact a visual defect that prevents us from seeing from afar» specifies the city «and the incorrect focusing of the images mainly depends on an excessive length of the eyeball».

The signs that can make you suspicious are:

  • the tendency to get closer to objects, to see better
  • the tendency to squint, to try to focus on distant objects

"However, you must not be alarmed if your daughter gets too close to the TV, a very common bad habit among children, if when you are out for a walk she sees very well the plane that flies through the sky" points out the ophthalmologist.

Read also More sun and outdoor play to decrease the risk of myopia


Astigmatism, on the other hand, involves a blurred or distorted vision of the images of objects placed at all distances. Most of the time, the incorrect focusing depends on a deformation, or an uneven curvature, of the surface of the eye: the cornea.

“In practice, the images are not very defined, both when looking up close and from a distance. This means that the astigmatist can see the road sign at great distances but he has difficulty reading the license plate of the car that he has in front of his eyes ».

The signs that can make you suspicious are:

  • the child confuses the letters of the alphabet
  • the child cannot read well the writing on the TV, such as the channel symbol or the program name


Farsightedness is usually physiological at birth. However, if it does not reduce over time, it represents an important visual defect, mainly due to a "short" eyeball. "It can cause blurry vision from both far and near and can be a cause of lazy eye (amblyopia)." Because if one of the two eyes sees worse than the other, the images it sends to the brain are not considered and so in the long run this eye can lose the ability to stare at an object. For this it is necessary to use corrective lenses.

The signs that can make you suspicious are:

- The onset of strabismus

- The onset of headache (headache) and visual fatigue, after reading or playing video games

"If the teacher (or your child himself) for example tells you that he is having difficulty seeing what is written on the board in the late morning, do not delay the visit to the ophthalmologist: it is very likely that the fatigue is due to the effort of accommodation that the eye muscles make to correct the visual defect, in order to focus the images correctly ", explains the city.

The glasses

The therapy for these vision defects is eyewear. «Even if - the specialist points out - in case of big differences between one eye and the other or a deficit of five diopters, today it is also possible to resort to corrective contact lenses even with small children. Indeed, in the case of very severe myopia already at nine months old babies we put on contact lenses. For surgery, on the other hand, it is better to wait until the age of 18 and that the situation has been stable for at least a couple of years. Otherwise the intervention, in pediatric age (up to 12 years), corrects the current defect, but does not prevent the eventual evolution and therefore reappearance of the problem ".

The checkups

It is not always easy to detect any alarm bells of any vision defects (ametropia), but on the other hand early diagnosis is key because "the eye behaves like a muscle and the sooner it is put in the best condition to work the more it can express its potential, this means that if there is a defect it must be corrected as soon as possible so that the child can see well and reach , with the help of glasses, the famous 10/10 »recommends the Child Jesus ophthalmologist from the city.

Then it is important to plan checkups starting from the first year of life, in order to prevent or intercept any anomalies or alterations of vision in time.

"For this reason, we recommend that you respect the following screening stages: the first within six months, to understand if the eye is anatomically healthy, then at one year to assess that the two eyes are the same and then at three, four and six years , to continue every two years ".

At three years of age, the first "real" eye examination is carried out, in the sense that the child's greater ability to collaborate and the level of development of the visual apparatus allow the ophthalmologist to evaluate visual function more precisely. In fact, between 3 and 4 years of age, it is possible to measure "sight" using reading tables (optotypes) designed specifically for children. They are tables that generally represent elementary drawings of ever smaller dimensions, or of the "E" proposed in the four positions.

In fact, the specialist recalls, it is now customary in all obstetrics and gynecology centers to have newborn children examined by the neonatologist, who will prescribe an eye examination in case of any anomaly.

It is then the pediatrician, usually, to carry out a first screening and refer to the specialist in case of any suspicion of congenital and early childhood eye diseases.

  • eyes
  • glasses
  • oculist
  • myopia
  • hyperopia
  • 3-5 children years
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