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Common Vision Problems in Children

Children's Eyesight Problems

As a parent, there are million things to worry about in terms of your child’s health and development. One of those things are your baby’s eyes. Eye health and good vision are crucial for a lot of areas of childhood development. From learning how to recognize shapes and faces, to succeeding in school, your kid’s eyesight plays a crucial role in the person they will grow up to be. That is what makes it so important to know what problems to look for in the early years.

Common Eye Problems for Kids

As your child goes from newborn to toddler to preschooler to school aged, there are a few common childhood eye conditions that you may encounter.

  • Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP): abnormal development of the blood vessel in the retina that can occur in some premature infants
  • Infantile, or Pediatric, Cataracts: a clouding of the eye’s lens in newborns
  • Retinoblastoma: a rare cancer of the eye that typically affects children between birth and five years of age
  • Amblyopia: also know as lazy eye, is described as weak vision or vision loss in one eye due to developmental differences. Usually first noticed after 6 months of age.
  • Strabismus: crossed eyes, or a turned out eye, can be due to a muscle condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned and can cause double vision. Usually first noticed after 6 months of age.
  • Diplopia: or double vision, can be caused by strabismus, cataracts and uncorrected astigmatism as well as other conditions. Sometimes not caught until 18 months of age to 2 years old. Can also develop later in life due to injury or age related issues.
  • Myopia: Nearsightedness is when objects close to you are seen clearly, but objects in the distance will not come into focus. Sometimes not caught until 18 months of age to 2 years old. Can also develop later in life due to injury or age related issues.
  • Hyperopia: Farsightedness is when objects in the distance are easier to see than objects close to you. Sometimes not caught until 18 months of age to 2 years old. Can also develop later in life due to injury or age related issues.
  • Astigmatism: due to an uneven curvature of the cornea, object both near and far can appear blurry. It is possible that astigmatism can go unnoticed for a long time, because it is congenital and present at birth. It is usually diagnosed with a child’s first vision test, which if there are no other indications of vision problems is usually done when a child enters school.

Some of these conditions may be easy to recognize as your child grows. Some may be harder to spot as a child’s development and growth continues.

Warning signs of vision problems in children

What indicates that your child might have a vision problem? Because children are growing and may not understand the difference between seeing well or not, they may not always tell you when they are having problems.

Parents should watch for the following indicators of an eyesight problem:

  • Squinting
  • Frequent tilting of the head
  • Rubbing eyes often
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Abnormal eye movement or turning in or out of the eyes
  • Short attention span for the child’s age
  • Sitting too close to the TV or holding books very close
  • Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing
  • Avoiding detail-oriented activities like coloring and puzzles

If you notice any of these behaviors happening consistently with your child, it is important to schedule a visit to your eye doctor as early as possible.

Treatment for sight problems in children

Each condition listed above in this discussion has its own set of treatment options. Ranging from corrective lenses, patches, eye drops or even surgery, each eye condition should be tackled with a team of health care professionals at your side. Your family doctor, ophthalmologists, and other health care providers will all work together to make sure that your child is getting exact what they need for healthy vision.

How long will it take for my child’s sight to improve?

With each condition, treatment times can vary, lasting a year or more. In the case of lazy eye and crossed yes, patches are used to train the weak eye and make it stronger. This process forces the brain to make new connections and learn not to favor the weaker eye, strengthening the muscles.

What is the most important thing you can do for your child during treatment? Stick with the treatment plan.

Using a patch over their good eye forces your child to see poorly, which can be frustrating, tiring and lead to minor headaches as the weak eye strains to get stronger. Add to that the act of wearing an eye patch or any corrective glasses themselves. Be prepared for meltdowns, tantrums and frustration as you and your child go through this together. The key is to remember that these devices and tools are a necessary hassle, for a brighter future for your child.

Early Detection is important to your child’s eyesight

Regular vision screening and eye exams are crucial to a child’s development, success in school and overall happiness.

From the American Academy of Ophthalmology: “The vision system is not fully formed in babies and young children, and equal input from both eyes is necessary for the brain’s vision centers to develop normally. If a young child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain, his or her vision may become limited in ways that cannot be corrected later in life. But if problems are detected early, it is usually possible to treat them effectively.”

When should I have my child’s eyes tested?

As a newborn, your baby’s doctors should have performed a red reflex test, which is basic indicator that their eyes are normal and presumably healthy. If your child was premature, has a family history of risk factors, or showed any signs of abnormalities, an ophthalmologist should perform a further, more comprehensive exam.

After the initial newborn exam, if there aren’t any complications or indicators of issues with their eyes, the Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends the following schedule:

  • Age 6-9 months
  • Age 2-5 years
  • Annually from ages 6 – 18 years of age

Eye exams throughout childhood development are also crucial to ensuring that your child’s eyes remain healthy and that any potential problems are caught early. Only trained eye care professionals can see what is physically going on with your kid’s eyes.

Have questions about your child’s eyes? Contact an Eyestar Optometrist to set up an appointment.

Disclaimer: This information has been compiled from various sources and is intended for information purposes only. If you are thinking that your child may be experiencing any vision problems, it is always best to consult with your doctor as soon as possible.


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