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Q&A about children's eye health with optometrist Simon Kay - ANSWERS BACK

(65 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 15-Apr-13 14:58:28

We're inviting you to send your questions on children's eye health to optometrist Simon Kay this week. Send your questions before Monday 10am on Monday 22 April and we'll post up his answers on 2 May.

Simon Kay BSc(Hons) MCOptom has been a qualified optometrist for over 30 years, and has a vast experience of almost all aspects of optometry. He joined Specsavers Opticians in 1993 first in Liverpool and for 15 years as a director of Lancaster and Morecambe. He served on many panels and committees whilst a director, including those responsible for IT design and professional advancement. He was regional chairman of the North West directors of Specsavers for over 12 years and as such was involved in almost all aspects of optometry on a business and professional level. He has been involved on the Local Optical Committee for many years and is currently Vice Chairman in his area.

This Q&A is sponsored by specsavers. Read more about children's eye problems.

Roseformeplease Wed 17-Apr-13 20:49:29

My son is about to get daily contact lenses (aged 12). What should I be aware of / watch out for? Why are contacts so expensive when they will allow him so much more freedom?

BreadAndJamForFrances Wed 17-Apr-13 20:52:19

My DS is 9 and has worn glasses since the age of three. He also has Ehlers Danlos Syndrome Hypermobility Type (a collagen disorder which affects his muscle tone as well as his joints and skin). He has a very slight squint in one eye when he is tired.
His prescription is -9 and -8.5. I have been told this is 'significantly short-sighted for a child his age' in a concerned voice by his ophalmologist.
At the moment, his sight loss seems to be slowing down, but he is really struggling to see well close up (with his glasses on) so he is holding books/DS/Lego/etc 2 inches from his face. Although his distance vision is okay (with glasses).
I feel he would benefit from wearing reading glasses/varifocals/bifocals.... however, I am told this is not an option for children. We are currently waiting for another appointment, where I'd like to try and find a solution. I am wondering if the eye muscles are maybe to blame for him not seeing close up even with glasses - you can see he/his eyes struggle to focus, but on examination this is not seen. He lifts his glasses up and down, trying to find the best position, and is now resorting to looking under his glasses rather than through them. I should also say, he gets awful headaches which have been suggested to be Suboccipital headaches, and, is being investigated for a kyphosis/lordosis in his spine due to the hypermobility, I have two other children, one with perfect vision, one with -4 and -4.5 who has 2 yearly examinations, with hardly any change.

frankie4 Wed 17-Apr-13 20:52:42

My ds aged 8 has been diagnosed with a fat prolapse on the edge of one eye. This seems so rare that I can't seem to get much information on it. Have you ever seen one of these on a child? And do they lead to any problems in the future?

JeanBillie Wed 17-Apr-13 21:04:11

My daughter is 21 months old and has worn glasses to correct a squint since she was 8 months old. We've been told that as long as the glasses correct the squint, she won't need an op. But my husband (and two other relatives) had a childhood op to correct the squint, so doesn't need glasses. I'm wondering whether the lack of op is cost-saving or whether it's really the best course of action.

What, in your experience, is best for a child with a squint?

Many thanks

CheeryCherry Wed 17-Apr-13 22:22:40

Hi my 12 year old DD was diagnosed with astigmatism and was given glasses which do not seem very strong. The first optician said she should wear them whenever she reads, uses screens etc. Recently a different optician said she should only use them when she needs them. Who is right? And is it true that this condition may be corrected as she grows up? Thank you.

thornrose Wed 17-Apr-13 22:48:17

My dd is 13, she has glasses but it is a daily battle to get her to wear them, except at school where she has no choice as she can't see the board!
She has AS and dyspraxia and she would love contact lenses but will struggle to manage them herself (poor motor skills, poor organisation and memory)
I've worn lenses for many years and would happily take over her lense care until she is able.
She has very low self esteem and lack of self confidence, she is so very unhappy wearing glasses. By refusing to wear them she is restricting her independence, crossing roads etc.
Would any optician allow her to wear lenses without being able to insert and remove then herself?

allagory Wed 17-Apr-13 23:14:42

I wondered why SpecSavers have their head office in Guernsey? Does the company pay tax in this country?

Queenmarigold Wed 17-Apr-13 23:16:29

My little one had a squint caused by brain surgery. It hasn't improved despite trying to patch in 2 years, although surgery has straightened it the vision is poor. Should we continue to patch, we are only just now getting to the point where we are achieving weartime recommended by hospital with the help of school. Patient compliance (aged 5) is a major problem and makes us all totally miserable, I'm wondering whether we have to make the decision to live with it hmm

Racers Wed 17-Apr-13 23:58:58

Hi Simon, you were my and DH's optician until a few years ago - clue is in the nickname if you're good at remembering your clients/patients. :-)

My only question is if our children's sight tests in Reception year at Primary School came back as normal and we have no concerns about their sight, at what age should we start taking them for full eye sight tests, bearing in mind DH's poor eyesight from a youngish age?

alwayslateforwork Thu 18-Apr-13 00:18:47

Dd2 had a squint dx at 3 mos (she was an HIE baby and was later dx with cerebral palsy). At the time, the consultant said this was nothing to do with her developmental delays, and it would be monitored, and the earlier she had surgery (probably around 18mos) the better, to ensure her vision developed correctly. (Alternating converging - and you can't patch alternating, which is why patching not an option).

However, as her disability became more noticeable, the eye folk became less and less interested in corrective surgery, and actually told me that it wasn't worth it, would be largely for cosmetic reasons, and essentially that her squint would return after surgery, as it was largely connected to her cp and motor difficulties.

We believed them, because, well, you do, don't you. She has worn glasses since she was a baby.

We emigrated when dd2 was 7, and the ophthalmologist that we registered with was frankly horrified. He was at a total loss as to why she hadn't had corrective surgery years before, said the treatment should have been the same regardless of disability, (barring any expected complications with anaesthesia - which we didn't have in dd2's case) and booked her in for the surgery as soon as possible, explaining that we were pretty much out of time for her to ever develop normal binocular vision as the surgery had been left far too long.

The surgery was a complete success in cosmetic terms - her eyes are now straight and move together. We are hoping that binocular vision is developing.

I would be interested in asking Simon Kay whether he feels that children with disabilities are left with a second-class service in terms of treatment of vision issues in the UK?

Certainly I was left feeling rather short changed by the NHS in this regard, in comparison to a country where the same treatment guidelines were in place regardless of disability... And would urge other parents to query similar decisions. If we were still in the UK, dd2 would be entering her teens with eyes pointing in different directions. Thankfully, we left in time.

I am uncomfortable with the idea of cosmetic surgery to conform to a norm - but I am even more uncomfortable that children with disabilities are not afforded the cosmetic option alongside their nt peers.

Jux Thu 18-Apr-13 00:39:23

dd has been wearing contacts for 2 years now, since she was 11. Her reason for avoiding specs was that she would be bullied (true). I asked the optician about contacts for one so young and the only concern was cleanliness. As I knew dd would be very careful, we went ahead.

Now I have done a MN questionnaire which implies that contacts carry much graver concerns than that (I might be adding 2 and 2 and making 5 though).

What are the problems with contacts?

impty Thu 18-Apr-13 08:17:11

Dd1 is 15 and would like contacts. Her first fitting wasn't very successful, and she has gone off the idea. I am inclined to encourage not going back as I am concerned about contacts and eye health! Should she persevere? Or is waiting until she's older better? The contact lenses are just for vanity, not for sport or anything.

HKat Thu 18-Apr-13 09:00:53

Hi. DD is 11mo and her left eye turns in - not necessarily noticeable unless you're looking or in some photos, and it does seem to have got slightly better since shexwas born. We mentioned it to the Dr when she was about 14 weeks who put us on a list to see a specialist, but said nothing would happen for about two years. I have access to private healthcare though - would it be of any benefit to get her seen earlier? Thanks

OrangePetals Thu 18-Apr-13 16:37:04

My 16mo DD is awaiting her first appointment for her very lazy eye.

I have noticed it is less obvious when out and about ie park, and much worse if we have the tv on at home. Is this likely to be the case and if so why?

KathySeldon Fri 19-Apr-13 17:33:24

When ds was discharged from eye hospital care into regular optician care at age 8, his binocular vision was just starting to develop. Can binocular vision continue to improve past this age? He is now nearly 11.
thank you.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 23-Apr-13 09:43:33

The Q&A is now closed and we'll be sending 20 questions over to Simon and post his answers up on 2 May.

LaraMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 03-May-13 11:34:01

We now have Simon's answers back, and I will be posting them up very shortly.

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:36:20


Both of my eyes are -7.5/+1.5, although the reading part of my lenses are only 2 years old. My husband's aren't much better.

Our son is nearly 4.

At what point do we start to get eye exams for him? I've been told to wait until he's at "proper" school, but I wasn't given distance specs until I was 6 when I probably needed them much earlier.

Should I push for something earlier, based on his genetics?

Absolutely! You son is quite old enough to have an eye test and the sooner the better, as if there is a problem, correcting his vision as soon as possible will help his education and the future development of his eyes and vision.

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:37:19


How often can children have new prescription frames/lenses on the NHS? DS has had two pairs of glasses within the past 18 months both with different prescriptions. However, he has lost his most recent pair (which he got last summer) and as we paid extra for those ones we are reluctant to get him another pair until he is eligible for another free pair.

Your son can have an NHS test at least once per year or more often if recommended by his optometrist. If required he is then entitled to an NHS voucher towards the cost of glasses. Some opticians have complete glasses for the value of the voucher so there would be nothing more to pay. There is also an NHS repair and replacement voucher available that you can use towards lost or broken glasses. You should enquire at your optician.

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:37:55


Are lazy eyes hereditory? I had a lazy eye as a child not caught early enough so i still have that lazy eye. Lady in specsavers told me its not. What age should they have eyes tested?
My childrens father is red green colour blind, could my children be colourblind too?

Lazy or amblyopic eyes can certainly run in families, so the advice would be to have your child's eyes tested as soon as you feel they can reasonably cooperate or sooner if you suspect a problem like a squint or turn in one or both eyes. If a problem is found the earlier it is corrected the better the long term outcome. Colour blindness or more accurately colour deficiency is genetic but follows the female line, so the fact that your husband is colour defective is not relevant. A colour vision test can be performed during an eye test provided the child is old enough to do the test

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:38:40


Why does my DS who is 2 and a half,never exposed to harsh winds or sun have a pinguecula in his right eye?

No one has been able to give us an answer as to why it may have developed.

The baffled GP and optician have only been able to say it is very rare in young children but perfectly harmless and quite common in adults.
I wonder if it could be a problem for him though as he is so young?

I have read that it is to do with collagen degeneration and I wondered if there have been any links made with Hyper Mobility Syndrome,which he was diagnosed with last year.

It can occur in children but is certainly not common. The cause is possibly related to exposure to UV light and is more common in people that work outside or in dry, dusty environments. If it irritates, lubricating eye drops can be administered as required, and in severe cases surgical removal may be considered if it affects the vision or interferes with blinking. I would seriously consider protecting your child's eyes as much as possible when outdoors in sunny weather by wearing sunglasses and headwear that will shade his eyes.

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:39:59



My daughter is 3 and half years old and has worn glasses for long-sightedness for the past two years.

Two years ago, her prescription was R +4.50, L +6.25.

Since then it has steadily worsened and her current prescription is R +6.50, L +8.25.

Why is her eyesight continuing to deteriorate? Could it be due to an illness? At what age can we expect her eyes to stop getting worse?


Your daughter is very longsighted meaning that her eyeball is too small, and light is focused behind the retina rather then on it. In children they have very active accommodation, that is, the natural lens in their eyes are very flexible and able to overcome up to moderate degrees of long-sightedness in order to focus. It is normal for children to be a little longsighted and it is natural for this lens to accommodate and it is common in children who are very longsighted to build up the prescription to its maximum over a period of time. You child is likely to have reached this maximum and unlikely to progress much more, but I would still expect small changes. It is even possible that her prescription could decrease as her eye grows, but I think she will always require correction.

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:44:40


I'm shortsighted (-1.75) as is DH (-2.25). How old should the DCs be before we take them for check ups. Also, are the DCs more likely to be shortsighted because we both are or does parental eyesight have no impact on children.

A great deal of refractive problems can be genetic so your children have a higher risk of also becoming short-sighted, but not necessarily. As soon as you feel they are able to cooperate, even to a small extent, you should take them for an eye test and certainly, before they reach the age of five or start school. Eye tests are free for children under the NHS.

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:45:36


My daughter's eyesight is deteriorating fast. She is now 9
August 2011 her prescription was -1.5
march 2012 -2.5, -2.75
September 2012 -3.5, -3.5
April 2013 -4.5, -4.0

Will it keep deteriorating at this pace? Is there anything we can do to slow the decline?
(I wear lenses but didn't need them til age 14. At age 39 I am a steady -5.25, -6 for the last 15 years approximately. DH is -3 in one eye, fine in the other.


You daughter is significantly short-sighted, and her prescription is likely to increase until her eye stops growing, which often coincides with her physical growth. However, it will always level out just has yours has, with minor changes occasionally. She has however some time to go before this occurs. There is no proven treatment that can prevent or reduce the amount of myopia but there is some suggestion that children who spend more time outdoors are slightly less likely to progress as quickly or to become myopic, but as your child is already significantly short-sighted I do not feel this would make any significant difference.

SimonKay Fri 03-May-13 11:46:55


Hello! Apologies if I'm repeating anything as I've only skimmed other posts blush

My question is about DD, who is 5. Last year she had her first eye test and was given glasses. Not at all surprising as my family are all very short sighted.

The optician said her prescription was very very low and it was really a judgement call IYSWIM, he just said 'give them a try'. Thing is she was shy/nervous in the eye test so I am unsure if that affected her result.

She does wear them when reminded - only for whiteboard type stuff, as recommended, but mentions headaches.

To get to the point - I'm just wondering how on earth do we know if the glasses are right for her when she is still quite young - is it a case of muddling through until she is a bit older and can test more reliably, or insisting she persists with them and the headaches will subside, or do we need to get her tested again now or what?! confused

Thanks smile

At her age the results of an eye test can be quite accurate and reliable. There are objective ways of determining the prescription and at the age of five most children can usually give good answers and 'read' pictures or letters so I would not be concerned about the accuracy of the test. I also would not be too concerned about her wearing the glasses at this stage, as if the prescription is very small she will not notice the benefit and there will be little incentive to keep them on.

Glasses prescribed for short-sightedness are almost always not given as a therapy but just to help see clearer in the distance and perhaps to help with headaches if this is deemed to be the cause. I would have her eyes tested regularly and if the prescription increases then she will need to wear them more frequently, particularly in the classroom.

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