Earn the warning signs for when your child may need corrective lenses.

It is common knowledge that as people age, additional help may be required to maintain clear near vision. Whether it be single-vision reading glasses, lined bifocals or lineless progressive glasses or a different approach to our contact lens wear, we often know that in the fourth decade of life vision change is coming.

So it’s understandable that parents’ first reaction is often one of doubt upon hearing their child would benefit from a multifocal pair of glasses. First, why would a child need a pair of multifocal glasses? The biggest condition that may require a multifocal for clear, comfortable vision in children is Accommodative Insufficiency (AI).

In the simplest sense, Accommodative insufficiency means the child has less focusing ability at “near” than expected for their age. In significant cases of AI, the child may have to exert more time and effort to focus and maintain clear near vision.

Asking the child, and parents, pointed questions about near tasks is critical. Does the child fatigue quickly when reading books or using a computer, hand-held devices or while gaming? Does the child have headaches regularly, especially associated with near-point tasks? Does the child shy away from book and computer use? Do they take more breaks than normal while reading or studying? A child with significant AI, and one or more of these symptoms, may benefit from a pair of glasses to relieve strain at near.

A pair of reading glasses could suffice to aid the strain. Unfortunately, they will only provide clear vision at near. So the patient will have to remove them for distance and will not be able to walk with these glasses on. It would be difficult for any patient to put these glasses “on and off” dozens of time in a day to address their needs.

That is why a progressive (no-line bifocal) lense is the better option. This is a pair of glasses that has a different lense in it for distance vision (20 feet and beyond), intermediate vision (3 to 20 feet), and near vision (1 to 3 feet).

A parent’s first concern is their child having trouble adapting to a progressive lense. They immediately, and understandably, equate it to adult experiences adjusting to their progressive glasses. I assure them this will not be the case with their child. I explain that children are so adaptable that they do not need special instructions on how to use their glasses as adults often do. Typically, children can just put them on and go about their regular activities. For best results, these glasses must be worn the bulk of the day to lessen to strain on the focusing system.

Annual eye exams are important to all children, especially for the patients with accommodative insufficiency. Sometimes the condition can lessen in the teens and may not require a multifocal solution any longer. It can be reassuring to know there is the potential for the focusing system to improve over time.