The teenage years are often when common vision problems first arise. A U.S. study conducted in 2016 found that 51.9% of girls and 38.8% of boys aged 14–17 wore glasses or contact lenses,1 highlighting the prevalence of eyewear need in the teenage cohort.
Good Vision For Life, an initiative by Optometry Australia,2 has outlined the four main factors that may impact vision during teenage years – self-image, too much screen time, being active and playing sports, and nutrition and hygiene.
Common vision problems for this age group include asthenopia – tired eyes often caused by frequent screen time and looking between the board and computer screen or book in a school environment, hyperopia – farsightedness where people have trouble focusing on things close up, and increasingly, myopia – the inability to see things clearly unless they’re close to your eyes.
When finding the perfect frame for your teenage patient, it is important to be aware of their vision needs and how to best assist in improving eye health. However, to ensure complete patient satisfaction, it is equally as important to be attuned to the demands of a teenage lifestyle.
A TEENAGE PERSPECTIVE
Eighteen-year-old Isabella recently developed eye strain and a bout of irritating eye twitches after a prolonged period of screen time. Her optometrist advised she start wearing glasses. “The lens I was prescribed was relatively mild, only 0.75,” she said. “Yet it was the aesthetic idea of having to wear glasses and feel confident in them that made me feel vulnerable. I felt incredibly insecure at the thought of having to wear glasses for the first time.”
Considering her age, Isabella also said she questioned why she needed glasses when her parents eye sight is completely fine. Having grown up with good eye health, she felt disheartened by the sudden changes in her vision and worried about further deterioration.
Finding a frame to suit Isabella was a balancing act between fashion and fit, as well as taking into consideration her sensitivity to the idea of glasses in the beginning.
“With time, I started to put this new reality into perspective, and tried to shift my thought to something more positive. I tried to look at wearing glasses as an opportunity to purchase a new accessory and found a pair that fits my style,” said Isabella.
Understanding the perspectives of your teenage patients, and providing encouragement and comfort when needed, is vital to getting things right.
SUITING AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE
Teenage-hood is a time in an individual’s life where lots of different factors meet to make up a busy and bustling lifestyle – academic, social and sporting endeavours all compete with one another for centre stage. As optometrists, it’s important to be aware of the multi-faceted life your teenage patients are leading, and approach each case fully equipped to manage all needs.
At age eight, Chloe was prescribed her first pair of glasses due to short-sightedness. “At the time I loved wearing my glasses to school because not many kids wore them and everyone was really interested in them,” she said.
However, when Chloe entered her teen years, her attitude towards wearing her glasses in a class environment changed. “When I started high school, I felt a bit shy wearing my glasses because I never found a frame that I liked and that I thought suited my face.”
Chloe transitioned to contact lenses in year eight to better suit her active lifestyle. Playing netball, water polo, soccer, track and field and more recently AFL, contact lenses provided the perfect solution to Chloe’s sport-based needs, all the while improving her self-confidence.
“After a while, I started wearing contacts every day at school because it meant nobody could tell I had bad eyesight.”
Now in her later teenage years, Chloe says she’s come to enjoy wearing glasses just as much as contact lenses. Having found a frame that suits her face-shape, she feels more confident wearing glasses for day-to-day life activities, reserving contact lenses for sport.
When it comes to active teens, it’s important to remember that contact lenses might not work for everyone. As optometrists you can also offer your patients optical frames that provide the protection necessary for a range of physical needs. Whether this be impact resistant glasses for sports where teens are at risk of eye injury, and/or, recommending accessories such as straps, to ensure a secure fit to the face when rock-climbing or sailing.
THE IMPORTANCE OF A GOOD FIT
As well as taking into consideration fashion and functionality, it is imperative the optical frames you prescribe your teenage patients fit well. There is no point having an aesthetic frame if they cause headaches or suggesting an impact resistant lens if they slide down your face. If frames don’t sit where they should, the patient won’t be looking through the optical centre of the lens, causing poor vision.
Ensure that the frames you prescribe fit the width of the face, sit well on the nose, stay in place and are comfortable to wear. In a classroom environment teens will frequently look up to the board, then back down to their book. If movement like this causes frames to slip and readjustment is constantly needed, then your patient may be tempted to give up entirely, especially if they already have reservations about their new frames in the first place.