Many people associate multifocal (bifocals, trifocals, and progressive) lenses with the aging process.
While it’s true that many people find that they need help with vision at more than one focal length as they age, bifocals can be used very effectively with young people, and can actually preserve their vision as they mature.
Children should see their optometrist at six months of age, for a preliminary vision screening. They should return for more in-depth examination when they turn three, and should have a comprehensive vision assessment performed by a professional eye doctor when they enter the first grade.
Upon entering school, many children complain that they can’t see the blackboard. In the past, the conclusion has been that the child is nearsighted, and so they are given a prescription for single-vision glasses to see the blackboard.
The problem arises when the do close-up work while wearing these glasses. Eyestrain at this focal length can actually damage vision, and so when returning for a new prescription, a stronger distance prescription is written, which actually compounds the problem.
At Nowlan and Moore, we have studied the benefits of prescribing bifocal lenses for school age children who appear to be nearsighted. The upper portion of the lens is designed to assist in focusing on the blackboard, while the lower part is not magnified, or magnified only slightly. Because they don’t experience eye strain when working on things close up (looking at their books or computers when taking notes, for example) they don’t require a stronger prescription for distance. Many times, children “outgrow” their nearsightedness, and because no damage was done by a prescription that did not correctly address their needs, they don’t require glasses in the future.