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Why does my child need glasses?

In most cases glasses are prescribed for children to improve vision, they may also be given to prevent poor vision from developing or to treat a squint.

Glasses are not always ordered, even if the child is found to be long or short-sighted. There are various factors that may influence the decision of whether or not to prescribe glasses, which include:

  • The age of the child
  • The strength of the glasses
  • Whether your child has a squint
  • The vision in each eye

What is a refraction?

This is a test to determine if your child requires glasses and involves instilling drops into both eyes in order to enlarge the pupil (the black part of the eye) and temporarily stop the eyes from focusing properly.

Please read the “having eye drops” advice for more information.

Once the pupils are enlarged, the eye specialist has a good view of the back of the eye to check that it is healthy. Next, using lenses and by moving a line of light across the back of the eye – the eye specialist can judge what strength of glasses are required.

After the refraction, the results of the test will be discussed with you.

What does long-sighted mean?

Longsight (hypermetropia) is a result of the eye being shorter than normal, causing light rays entering the eye to focus behind the retina (back of the eye) so the child sees a blurred image. Children with long-sight have reduced near and distance vision. Glasses correct this condition to enable images to be focused properly on the retina for all distances.

What does short-sighted mean?

Short sight (myopia) is a result of the eye being longer than normal, causing light rays entering the eye to focus before the retina (back of the eye) so the child sees a blurred image. Children with myopia have reduced near and distance vision, however distance vision is more affected. Glasses correct this condition to enable images to be focused properly on the retina for all distances.

Can we make the lenses thinner?

Higher strength prescriptions for glasses require thicker lenses.

Many opticians are now able to make up the glasses with thinner lenses at extra cost. This cost will vary with differing opticians therefore once again it is best to shop around. For safety reasons, we recommend the use of plastic lenses, which are slightly thicker than glass.

What is astigmatism?

If you have astigmatism, the cornea is shaped more like a rugby ball. Astigmatism is a result of light rays entering the eye being focused at different distances from the retina. It distorts and blurs vision for both near and far objects. In a normal eye the cornea (front of the eye) is round like a football. As well as long or short sight your child may have astigmatism.

Where do we get the glasses?

If glasses are necessary a prescription statement and NHS voucher HES(P) will have been provided which will state the strength of the glasses required. This can be taken to any optician.

The voucher entitles you to a set amount of money towards 1 pair of glasses.

Many opticians can supply a basic glasses-frame and the lenses required which are covered by the voucher cost.

However, if you find a pair of frames that are slightly more expensive than the voucher covers, you can add some money of your own in order to make up the cost. Opticians’ prices vary so we recommend looking around different opticians before purchasing.

Can my child have a spare pair of glasses?

The voucher will normally be for one pair of glasses. A spare pair will only be funded by the hospital in certain circumstances:

  • If the glasses prescription is exceptionally strong
  • If the glasses aid control of a squint
  • Children with special needs or learning difficulties

If your child does not qualify, you may buy a second pair yourself by taking your prescription statement to any optician, which provides the information they require.

Prescription swimming goggles can be made for older children, although they are not available on the NHS.

Should my child wear glasses all day?

Yes, the glasses should be worn all the time unless you are specifically advised otherwise. Some schools require children to take off their glasses at playtime and PE lessons for safety reasons. If this is the case, it is important to stress to the teacher that glasses must be worn at all other times. Your child’s teacher plays an important role in helping your child comply with glasses.

Will my child always need glasses?

This will depend on the strength of the glasses and also whether they are required as treatment for a squint. Whether your child will always require glasses may only become clear after they have worn them for some time. The orthoptist and optometrist will be able to advise you on your child’s condition.

Why do the glasses look so strong?

If you do not wear glasses or your glasses are for a different condition, your child’s glasses will look very odd to you if you look through the lenses. We prescribe the glasses that will help your child to achieve the best possible vision.

Why does my child claim to see better without the glasses?

This is a very common complaint in the early days of glasses wearing or if there has been a recent change to the strength of the lenses. Your child may have been struggling with reduced vision for some time and now the brain and the eyes have got to learn to work together with the help of the new glasses. It can take some time for children to adapt to the glasses, so please encourage your child and persevere. It is a very important stage of the treatment. If this problem persists, however, please contact the eye department for advice.

How often will my child need a refraction?

Whilst your child is a registered patient at the hospital and until they are discharged, regular refraction tests for glasses will be performed at the hospital usually once a year. These will indicate whether any change in the strength of the lenses is necessary.

What do we do if the glasses get broken or need replacing?

The HES(P) voucher provided is valid for 12 months. If your child’s glasses need repairing or replacing within a year of issue, return to the optician who supplied the glasses. If you cannot return to the same optician, take the glasses and prescription statement (given to you at the same time as the voucher) to another optician. The optician should provide a repair and replacement voucher GOS2(R) that entitles you to a set amount of money for the repair or replacement. If you lose your prescription statement please contact the eye department for a replacement.

How do I choose a suitable frame?

Frames come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so it is important that you choose one that will fit your child’s needs. Ask your optician to recommend the most suitable frame style for your child’s facial features, age, prescription and activities. Ask about the quality and expected lifetime of the frame and the frame guarantee if there is one.

Why is a proper fit important?

Babies and children have relatively flat nasal bridges and glasses can easily slide down a child’s nose. To prevent this special attention is required when fitting the frames.

For young children glasses are available that have curled sides around the ears. Flexible hinges allow some outward bending of the side arms which is particularly useful for a child. Fixed bridges rather than nose pads often suit children with a smaller or flat nasal bridge. Your optometrist will be able to show you these options.

If the glasses get bent out of shape please return to your optometrist for adjustment, as the position of the spectacle lenses relative to the eyes is important, particularly for high-powered lenses and astigmatism.

How can I encourage my child to wear the glasses?

We sympathise that it may be difficult at times to persevere with the glasses in young children. It is important that you encourage your child to wear the glasses, as treatment is more effective the earlier it is commenced. So make it fun, reward good behaviour and get support from others to encourage and distract your child to wear the glasses as much as possible.

If your child is old enough, let their chose their own frame. However, be sure to follow your opticians advice about the proper size and fit because these are often more important than the appearance of the frame.

Be positive about the glasses and your child’s appearance in them.

Children’s glasses can frequently get damaged and bent out of shape, which can make them uncomfortable to wear. If the glasses appear to be out of alignment or fitting poorly, take your child and their glasses back to the opticians.

How should I care for my child’s glasses?

To clean the lenses, use water with a soft cloth or a specialist cleaning cloth from your opticians. You can use washing up liquid with a soft cloth if you are unable to clean with just water.

To reduce wear and tear on the side arms, children should be taught to remove their glasses using both hands. They should also be shown how to put their glasses in a protective case when not in use and never to put them face down on any surface to reduce the risk of scratching the lenses.

Can my child have prescription sunglasses?

A peaked cap or baseball cap, are good ways of protecting the eyes the eyes in bright sunlight.

A glasses voucher for prescription sunglasses will not be provided for patients unless it is to treat certain medical conditions that cause photophobia such as ocular albinism.

You may fund the cost of prescription sunglasses yourself from any optician using your prescription statement to provide the glasses’ strength.

Photochromic lenses which tint as the wearer goes inside or outside are available in plastic but these lenses are not frequently prescribed for children due to their cost.

Ask your optometrist or optician about the advantages and disadvantages of tints or sunglasses.

Contact us

If you have any queries, please contact the Eye Department on 0114 271 7468

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: EYE6

Resource Type: Article

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Eye department contact number: 0114 27 17468


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S10 2TH

United Kingdom

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