All You Need to Know: Astigmatism in Children & Glasses
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Is astigmatism as serious as it sounds?
The whole shebang of astigmatism is a term used for the irregular shape of the surface of the eye called the cornea. The unequal curvature of the cornea results in an unclear image because the light is not correctly focused on the retina when it enters the eye.
The two main types of astigmatism are corneal and lenticular. Corneal astigmatism happens when your cornea is misshapen. Lenticular astigmatism happens when your lens is misshapen.
Lenticular astigmatism is similar to corneal astigmatism but it affects the lens rather than the cornea. Instead of a perfect curve, the lens has variations that create imperfect images in the back of the eye, or retina.
Astigmatism can also be categorized according to other refractive errors that are present.
- Myopic astigmatism happens when astigmatism is combined with near-sightedness and the two curves are focused in front of the retina.
- Hyperopic astigmatism is when farsightedness is combined with astigmatism and the two curves are focused behind the retina.
- Mixed astigmatism is when one curve is far-sighted and the other is near-sighted.
Like nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism usually can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
Image by BruceBlaus via Wikimedia Commons
What causes astigmatism in children?
Astigmatism is one of the most common vision problems in children. According to a National Eye Institute’s study, about 10% of preschool children have astigmatism, which is particularly common in children between the age of 6 months and 1 year old. By the time they are 6 years old, only 9% has astigmatism because many grow out of it.
It is unclear why some people are born with an abnormal cornea that does not curve properly. While there may be a genetic component, it’s not very clear-cut and astigmatism “just happens”. In other words, astigmatism is not anybody’s “fault.”
Preterm infants are more likely to have astigmatism compared to those born closer to their due date. It may also result from certain types of surgery or eye injuries that cause scarring of the cornea.
There are various natural remedies that can be applied conveniently at home to treat astigmatism thanks to its safety and comfort to utilize in kids. Eating a diet with healthy foods rather than resorting to supplements is always the best way for your children to get the nutrients they need.
Vitamin A belongs to a group of antioxidant compounds and protects the exterior surface of the eyes. Inadequate intake of vitamin A can lead to blindness, particularly in children. It can be naturally found in beef liver, eggs and milk besides dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale or orange fruits and vegetables, such as butternut squash or sweet potatoes.
Recognized as an essential building block for strong capillaries which maintain a healthy blood flow to and from the eyes. Cantaloupe, strawberries, kale and oranges are recommended vitamin C rich foods to help prevent eye infection and some forms of eye disease.
Essential for overall eye health, vitamin D can be naturally found in the sun or fortified milk and cereals, fatty fish like salmon or tuna, mushrooms and pork.
Astigmatism in children and glasses
Children with astigmatism should have a thorough eye exam once a year in order to make any adjustments in the glasses and to examine the eye itself.
However, you should adjust their prescription sooner if your child complains about blurry vision before one year.
During an eye exam, after the pupils are dilated, the doctor may use a special handheld light called a retinoscope to view the “red reflex” and measure objectively any nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism that may be present, accurately enough to prescribe glasses if needed.
Glasses that are prescribed for astigmatism have greater strength in one direction of the lens than in the opposite direction.
Children with large amounts of astigmatism will often wear glasses well at age 1 to 3. Many other kids with small amounts do not require wearing glasses at all. When they are at older age, glasses are needed for reading and homework.
Sometimes the astigmatism goes away by itself depending on the growth of the eye. If the astigmatism is very large or present in a larger amount in only one eye, glasses may be needed during all waking hours.
Correction of the astigmatism with glasses should improve the visual acuity and eliminate the accompanying symptoms. However, even the appropriate prescription may not normalize the vision because of the typically delayed diagnosis of this type of refractive error.
Reading and studying at school may be affected if a child has undiagnosed astigmatism, so regular eye tests are important. If you observe the following symptoms, consider scheduling a thorough examination with an ophthalmologist for your child:
- The child is visually inattentive during infancy
- The child fails a vision test at school
- The child squints to see objects at reasonable distances
- The child complains about blurry or distorted vision at reasonable distances
- The child complains about headaches, eye redness, tearing and/or eyestrain
- The child covers one eye to see, or rubs the eyes