Can wearing old glasses cause eyestrain or headaches in my child?

Recently a patient posed the following questions to me, and I figured we would share the answers with all of our faithful facebook and website readers.

Question 1: Can my child experience headaches or eyestrain by using a prescription that is not correct?

Question 2: Can permanent vision loss occur in my child if I do not make sure they are wearing a current eyeglass prescription?

My answer to these questions is lengthy, but is located below and is important for all parents of young children to read and understand.

The answer to both questions is “Maybe”
The distinction between a hyperopic (far-sighted) patient and a myopic (near-sighted) patient is crucial in answering your questions. A child that is hyperopic can most certainly experience headaches and eyestrain using a spectacle prescription that is not strong enough.
This happens because the muscles in and around the eyes are capable of flexing to make up for the additional prescription that is required in the distance. This becomes a problem because those muscles are designed to only be used when near work is presented.   These muscles are very small and can fatigue easily when used improperly, which leads to eyestrain and headaches.
Children that are myopic may experience no symptoms other than blur in the distance if they are using glasses that are too weak for them.  In fact we sometimes intentionally leave our myopic children slightly undercorrected in an attempt to slow the progression of their myopia.
Only an Optometrist can determine if your child is myopic or hyperopic, and a complete eye exam including cycloplegic refraction is highly recommended by the age of 5 to rule out accommodative problems or latent hyperopia.  These conditions mean that the child’s ocular muscles work too hard or not enough and can lead to permanent vision deficiencies if not caught during this critical time period – typically before age 5.  Many times these conditions are missed by pediatricians and school screenings so it is important that your child have an eye exam with an Optometrist with experience in pediatric care.
If a child had one of these conditions and was wearing the incorrect prescription, permanent vision loss will almost always be the result.
True myopic children have very little risk for acquiring amblyopia (permanent visual distortion usually in one eye) by wearing the wrong Rx, but as I said sometimes a child is diagnosed as being near-sighted but really has an accomodative issue that has gotten missed because no cycloplegic refraction was performed. In these cases the child is at great risk of permanent damage.
If you have a child that has not been seen for a comprehensive eye exam and is now 5 years or older, it is time to schedule them.  Give our office a call at 860-482-4439 to schedule today…

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