Safety of Spectacles for Children's Vision: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial

Am J Ophthalmol. 2015 Nov;160(5):897-904. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2015.08.013. Epub 2015 Aug 15.


Purpose: To study safety of children's glasses in rural China, where fear that glasses harm vision is an important barrier for families and policy makers.

Design: Exploratory analysis from a cluster-randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial.

Methods: Among primary schools (n = 252) in western China, children were randomized by school to 1 of 3 interventions: free glasses provided in class, vouchers for free glasses at a local facility, or glasses prescriptions only (Control group). The main outcome of this analysis is uncorrected visual acuity after 8 months, adjusted for baseline acuity.

Results: Among 19 934 children randomly selected for screening, 5852 myopic (spherical equivalent refractive error ≤-0.5 diopters) eyes of 3001 children (14.7%, mean age 10.5 years) had VA ≤6/12 without glasses correctable to >6/12 with glasses, and were eligible. Among these, 1903 (32.5%), 1798 (30.7%), and 2151 (36.8%) were randomized to Control, Voucher, and Free Glasses, respectively. Intention-to-treat analyses were performed on all 1831 (96.2%), 1699 (94.5%), and 2007 (93.3%) eyes of children with follow-up in Control, Voucher, and Free Glasses groups. Final visual acuity for eyes of children in the treatment groups (Free Glasses and Voucher) was significantly better than for Control children, adjusting only for baseline visual acuity (difference of 0.023 logMAR units [0.23 vision chart lines, 95% CI: 0.03, 0.43]) or for other baseline factors as well (0.025 logMAR units [0.25 lines, 95% CI 0.04, 0.45]).

Conclusion: We found no evidence that spectacles promote decline in uncorrected vision with aging among children.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • China / epidemiology
  • Eyeglasses / standards*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Refraction, Ocular*
  • Refractive Errors / epidemiology
  • Refractive Errors / physiopathology
  • Refractive Errors / therapy*
  • Rural Population
  • Schools
  • Visual Acuity*
  • Visually Impaired Persons / rehabilitation*