Is my eyeglass grade too high??

Eyesight check
Eyesight check

“Do I have ‘too much power’ for my eyeglasses?” an 8year old, smart little girl with all the curiosity in the world in her eyes, asked me when I am done with her refraction. The question was a little surprising, as questions like this and many more of these nature generally come from their worried parents. 

 So, when a girl in Grade 2 is asking you this, it definitely means that  there must have been discussions on this topic among her friends or family members. There might be friends or family who would have looked at her present eyeglasses and wondered ‘oh! you have BIG power for your eyeglasses, seems like you are in DANGER’ kind of fear mongering or she might have felt inferior among a group of friends who don’t wear eyeglasses or those wearing eyeglasses not as thick as her. 

So, I feel, now I should explain the answers to some of the frequently asked questions in the simplest of words, not just  to my little cute patient who asked this question, but to the whole group who have these questions lingering in their mind and never asked anyone.  So, here we are, a new website is born. 

Eyeglass Grade: Is it too high for my child?

First things first, let’s answer this  “Do I have ‘too much power’ for my eyeglasses?” question right away .

To answer this, one must understand that there are different components for an eyeglass’ ”power or grade” and if you have no prior idea what it is about, I am sure that I am going to confuse you with the next paragraph. If you wish to get confused, go ahead and read on or If you are only interested to know what exactly is my answer to this question, skip this following paragraph and read the next one. 

The power of an eyeglass can be Spherical or Cylindrical or it can be a combination of both. Even with Spherical or Cylindrical powers it can be either Minus or Plus or even there too, a combination of both. So, if someone is telling you that “My eye glass power is 2”, it can be -2.00 Speherical , -2.00 Cylindrical, -2.00 Spherical with some random cylindrical power or It can be some random sphere power with -2.00 cylindrical . Oh, wait ! you can’t finish guessing unless you consider that it can be  +2.00 Speherical, +2.00 Cylindrical, +2.00 Spherical with some random cylindrical power or It can be some sphere power with +2.00 cylindrical too. After all this, you must consider whether it is for his/her distance vision or near vision too and once you are done with that, you must see what is the status of the other eye which can have an entirely different set of powers. So, tell me how is it going? Did I succeed in getting the cruel pleasure of confusing you with all these n number of permutations and combinations of eyeglass power components. Even if I was successful  or not, forget about all those and read on to the following paragraph. Because, that combination and its placements are not a common man’s headache, it is the job of the Optometrist or Optician who is dispensing you the eyeglasses.Then, what exactly is a common man, a patient , kid or parent should be concerned about when getting his or her eyeglasses?

The power of an eyeglass of any person, for its Spherical component, can commonly be anywhere of the range from -/+0.25D to +/-12.00, it can even go up +/- 20.00D or higher in certain rare cases. In its Cylindrical component, it can be from  +/-0.25 to +/-8.00D, in most common scenarios. So purely on mathematical or quantitative terms, we can say someone’s power of the eyeglasses is high when his or her Spherical power is beyond +/ – 5.00D or Cylinder power is higher than +/- 3.00D. 

But is it the right way to approach an eyeglass prescription? Does having a “high power”  any worse than having a “less” power? Is everyone with less grade on their eyeglasses in a better eye health status than someone with a higher grade? NO, Absolutely NO, and understanding why so is very vital and crucial, especially when it comes to obtaining eyeglasses for your children.


Cute kid looks into the camera while female doctor wearing new glasses to him

The real job of Eyeglasses

Having an eyeglass of a certain grade, be it higher or lesser, only means that the particular grade is helping the brain to understand/decode any object that one sees by placing light rays from that particular object at the correct position in the retina in its maximum possible clarity . So, if someone is asked to wear a ‘higher’ grade, that means he needs that much grade for his brain to function at its fullest to give the most accurate information.  Someone who needs a lesser power is going through this same brain calibration work. Nothing more or nothing less. So it’s all the same when it comes to the final result. Giving the best possible image to the brain. 

Here is the conclusion and in fact, it is really about the brain and not the eyeglasses. 

Children’s brains have a naughty habit. Their brains always tend to look for the best images and they prefer to get the best images for them to process and tell your kids what they are seeing. So when their brain continuously doesn’t get the best images from any eye for a considerable period of time it will start neglecting that eye and technically stop accepting information from that eye. When the brain does this serious neglect, the eye which is constantly being avoided from giving information (though not with the best of clarity) to the brain will start feeling the neglect and will start becoming weak (read sad!).  The biggest damage this break up between this ‘unclear’ eye and brain is that this weakness is irreversible after a certain age, roughly about 12 years. Meaning, whatever we do medically to improve that “relationship”, it will not work. That eye will not recover, forever. That condition is called a “Lazy eye” or Amblyopia.(Watch this space for a detailed discussion about Amblyopia on a later date) .

So there is no shame in having a “higher” grade. Infact, it is great and wonderful that one is giving his/her brain the best possible images even with a”higher” grade and keeping it healthy and productive without allowing it to be lazy. Likewise, it will be unfortunate and will almost be a tragedy if one avoids using the right grades, even if it was a “smaller” power and results in those eyes being permanently weak or useless, no matter what.

So parents and kiddos, it doesn’t matter what grades your eyeglasses are, have them on and chill.. 🙂

{In Part II, we are going to answer  the next set of common questions regarding “Children and their eyeglasses” which include details regarding “Why do the power of  my child’s glasses keep getting stronger?”,  “How bad is gadget use for my child’s eye?” ,etc. If you have any similar set of concerns or queries regarding your child’s eyeglasses,feel free to raise them  here in the comment section, also please provide  your valuable feedback  about this particular chapter)

2 thoughts on “Is my eyeglass grade too high??”

  1. My 11-year-old is the same- she keeps worrying about her glasses more than we do. Thankfully, her prescription is very minimum- somewhere around -1.00. She’s so adamant about trying contacts on but it’s me who’s stopping her. The optometrist also suggested her to wait until she turns 14. What’re your thoughts about it?

    1. Hello Claire,
      I do agree with your Optometrist’s advice. 11 might be too early for her to start her contacts. It will be better for her to wait a couple more years to start wearing contact lenses.

      The contact lens has to be worn by religiously following the wearing schedule pattern and hygiene requirements. Any carelessness on that regard can cause serious damage to the eyes. At this age, she might be too young to handle that part.

      Having said that, age is just a number. If she is so very sure that she will manage these technicalities now itself and if you can monitor that often, she may consider starting with a pair of trial lenses now itself. But only if both of you are too sure. ?

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