Frequently asked questions: My child’s eyes cross without their glasses, are the glasses making their eyes worse?

This is one of the questions that comes up very often in the Little Four Eyes facebook group.  The question usually reads something like this:

My child just started wearing glasses a few weeks ago for farsightedness.  Before getting glasses, we noticed that her eyes would cross, but only occasionally.  When her glasses are on, her eyes are staying straight now, but now when we take her glasses off, her eyes always cross, and it seems like they’re crossing even more than they used to.  Are her glasses making her eyes worse?

It has always frustrated me that this isn’t covered by more eye doctors with parents of farsighted children.  Short answer is that it is nothing to worry about if a child’s eyes  are straight with glasses on, but crossing without glasses, in fact it’s quite common.  However, it’s very startling and upsetting for parents to see what looks like their child’s eyes getting worse after they get glasses.

Eyes crossed without glasses

Eyes crossed without glasses

Eyes straight with glasses

Eyes straight with glasses

This happens with kids with accommodative esotropia.  That is, their child uses their accommodative reflex to focus through the farsightedness, but that causes eye strain and crossed eyes.  Monica Wright from Kids’ Eyes Online has a good overview.

Once a child has adjusted to their glasses, they become used to seeing clearly.  When their glasses are taken off, they want to continue seeing clearly, and so they try to accommodate, which causes their eyes to cross, often more strongly than before they had glasses.

We saw this with Zoe (as you can see in the pictures), and it was really upsetting to see, especially since I so strongly associated crossed eyes with vision problems.  As Zoe has gotten older, she’s been better able to keep her eyes straight even without her glasses.

It is also important to note that if you see your child’s eyes not lining up correctly while their glasses are on, you should contact their eye doctor.  For many children, it’s a sign that their prescription needs adjusting.

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6 responses to “Frequently asked questions: My child’s eyes cross without their glasses, are the glasses making their eyes worse?

  1. Hi Ann,

    Did you see the crossing at all with her glasses on?
    I ask because my LO who has accomodative intermittent esotropia just had her prescription changed (because we noticed some consistent crossing with her glasses on). We were hopeful that the new prescription would make the crossing go away
    But, we still see an intermittent turn sometimes especially when we just put on her glasses in the morning and she is zoning out or still drowsy.

    Did you see this at all?
    Am afraid the doc will recommend surgery next if glasses don’t keep her eyes straight and I guess I am just looking to see if anyone who experienced this didn’t have to resort to surgery.

    Thanks,
    Ash

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    • Hi Ash,
      Unfortunately, we did see Zoe’s eyes crossing with her glasses on. We tried quite a few different prescriptions, but the crossing continued – the glasses made it better, but never completely resolved it. We did end up doing the surgery at 22 months. And after that, her eyes stayed straight with glasses on, although they still crossed if her glasses were off, or if she needs a new prescription.

      If it’s intermittent and only when she’s sleepy, then it doesn’t sound like something surgery would address.

      Best of luck to you!

      Like

    • Hi,
      I am seeing the same symptoms mentioned for your little one with my 2 year old. Would love to hear from you on how it all went. if you wish to share your experience, please let me know. Thanks.

      Like

  2. I hope it can be corrected by your doctor’s prescription. I know hoe I feel because the daughter at early age has some eye problem. My friend from US recommends the optical shop Paris Miki but unfortunately they don’t have branch on our country 😦

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  3. Hi, this site has been so great at explaining things. I have found out that my 2 year old little boy needs glasses this week for farsightedness. We took him to get tested after we noticed his right eye would sometimes turn inwards. He was prescribed +5 glasses and we were told both eyes were fairly equal in their presentation. I have been crazily googling ever since to try and understand more about everything. His glasses are due to come into the store next week but I am so concerned about the issue above.. I was told that his eye may look worse without the glasses initially whilst his eyes get used to them but was led to believe that this would improve over time and the glasses could actually improve the turn more generally. Since reading so much more I’m worried it actually won’t improve and anytime he doesn’t wear his glasses he will have a more noticeable turn than he has now. Are you able to offer any more information on this? We are also awaiting a referral to the children’s eye hospital so I don’t know whether to wait until our appointment there. Sorry for the long post I feel so confused & in shock at the moment as you would never think he has a problem with his eye sight. I want to do the best for him, the idea of making his eye turn worse I find heartbreaking. Thank you

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    • Hi Mandy,
      I understand the worries. The most important thing, though, in my mind is that the glasses should help his vision. Both by keeping his eyes straight and by making it easier for him to see things close up. Right now, he can focus close up, but that causes his eyes to cross. And it is likely that at first, being in glasses will mean that when his glasses come off, his eyes might cross more — he’ll be used to seeing clearly with his glasses, so his brain will want to continue seeing clearly and will overcompensate and cross his eyes. But at least in our experience, Zoe’s eyes stopped crossing without glasses when she got to age 6 or 7. Now when she takes off her glasses, so cannot see clearly at all(which is to be expected) , but her eyes stay straight.

      I hope that helps.

      Like

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