Kid’s Vision Concerns: What Parents Need to Know
Many vision problems present themselves during childhood. Since kids may not notice small changes to their eyesight, it’s important that parents begin scheduling an annual eye exam by the time their son or daughter is 5 years old.
While pediatricians may spot serious issues like amblyopia (lazy eye), an optometrist can test visual acuity and look for more subtle eye diseases.
No matter how old your child is, here are five warning signs that it’s time to get their vision checked by an optometrist:
- They squint more often. Squinting may help them focus, but it’s no substitute for glasses or contacts. Persistent squinting is a tell-tale indication that their vision is blurry.
- Your child complains of headaches. Squinting all day long can stress face muscles, resulting in headaches. See your pediatrician or optometrist to narrow down the culprits.
- They start struggling in school. Kids who can’t read instructions off the whiteboard are going to run into trouble when completing assignments. Parents tend to worry about learning disabilities or bad study habits, but a pair of glasses is sometimes enough to resolve the issue.
- He/she covers one eye. Always the pragmatists, children often cover their weak eye and rely on the one that provides clearer vision. Needless to say, it’s not a long-term solution.
- Your child sits too close to the computer monitor or TV. If a kid can’t see his favorite TV show from the couch, he’ll probably camp out right in front of the screen.
Common Vision Concerns by Age
Common Vision Problems Affecting Kids
Many people become aware of vision issues when they’re kids. While some of the conditions discussed below can develop in teens and adults, we’re covering them here because it’s important to begin thinking about vision health early on.
Myopia (nearsighted): Kids who are nearsighted have difficulty seeing distant objects clearly. If your daughter complains about not being able to see the front of the classroom, she may be nearsighted.
Myopia can be caused by an elongated eyeball or misshapen lens, both of which are known as refractive errors. In the first case, the slight imperfection moves the surface of the retina away from the focal point, where light is brought into clear focus. Similarly, a lens that isn’t properly curved can also shift the focal point off of the retina.
Myopia is very common, and glasses or contacts usually correct the issue. Nearsightedness is one of the eye conditions that can be diagnosed during a vision screening or eye exam.
Hyperopia (farsighted): People who are farsighted experience blurry vision when looking at nearby objects. Reading becomes difficult, with letters only coming into focus when a book is held at a distance.
What causes hyperopia? Nearsightedness occurs when the eyeball is too short. This minor imperfection pushes the focal point beyond the retina. Hyperopia can affect people of any age, but it’s important for parents to be aware of this common condition so they can spot warning signs in their children. A sudden loss of interest in reading or homework can be the result of trouble seeing.
Luckily, hyperopia can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses, and it’s only a minor inconvenience for most people.
Amblyopia (lazy eye): A “lazy eye” doesn’t move in unison with its partner, appearing to wander or drift. Since it is often quite obvious, amblyopia is usually diagnosed at a young age.
There are several causes behind lazy eye, but each involves the quality of visual information being sent from the retina to the brain. For example, if one eye suffers from myopia while the other delivers a clear view, the brain may favor the stronger eye. The myopic eye is then downgraded in importance, leading to reduced control. Strabismus, discussed below, can also cause lazy eye to develop.
Treatment options vary with the cause of amblyopia. Children may temporarily wear a patch over the better eye to help “reconnect” the weaker one with the brain. Specialized corrective lenses can be used to similar effect, blurring the vision in the stronger eye. In certain cases, surgery may be necessary to fix lazy eye.
Strabismus (crossed eyes): A misalignment of the eyes may be indicative of strabismus, which makes people appear cross-eyed. There are several potential causes behind strabismus, including problems with the eye muscles or nerves. Strabismus can also arise due to brain damage or diseases like cerebral palsy. Your ophthalmologist can help diagnose the cause of the condition.
Corrective lenses, eye patches or surgery may be needed to correct strabismus. Left untreated, it can result in amblyopia (discussed above).
Ptosis (drooping eyelid): In ptosis, one eyelid hangs lower than the other. The levator muscle is responsible for lifting the eyelid; problems with the levator can result in ptosis.
Since ptosis can cause one eye to perform better than the other, leaving it untreated may result in lazy eye. Surgery is usually effective at correcting ptosis.
The preceding list of vision concerns covers several major issues; you should take your child to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam whenever you suspect something is wrong.
School Vision Screenings Aren’t Enough
Many schools provide vision screenings for students. While such a test may reveal that your son needs glasses, they’re no substitute for a regular eye exam performed by an optometrist an ophthalmologist.
Optometrists are trained to spot eye diseases and can write prescriptions for glasses or contacts. Serious eye concerns may require a visit to an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who can treat a wider range of conditions and perform surgery. Eyeconic can help you find a local eye doctor.
Ensuring that your child is seeing clearly can help prevent more serious issues when they become teens or adults.