Have you noticed your child rubbing his or her eyes frequently? Or squinting to see things that are far away? These are just a couple of the signs and symptoms that a child might have vision problems or other eye disorders.
Kids need strong eyesight to read, to learn, and even to play, but it’s estimated that nearly 1 in 4 kids has an undiagnosed eye condition. Here are three common problems children may have with their eyes, along with what to look for.
What it is: This means that the eye is an abnormal shape and doesn’t bend light as it should, resulting in poor vision or blurred vision. Nearsightedness (not being able to see things clearly that are far away) is the most typical, but refractive errors also include farsightedness and astigmatism.
What to look for: Refractive errors often show up in school-aged children around the time they start learning to read or need to see a whiteboard in the classroom. You might notice your child squints or has trouble reading, or complains of headaches or eye pain.
How it’s treated: Most refractive errors are easily treated with prescription eyeglasses when kids are young, and as they get older, some switch to contact lenses.
Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)
What it is: This condition can result when one or both eyes don’t develop as they should, so that one eye becomes more dominant than the other. The stronger eye starts to take over, while the vision in the weaker eye gets progressively weaker.
What to look for: Lazy eye is often the result of other eye conditions, so watching for the symptoms of those conditions is one way to ward off lazy eye. Look for crossed eyes or cloudy patches in the eye. Sometimes you might notice one eye looks droopy, or that it wanders inward or outward. Poor depth perception, squinting, and tilting of the head can also be signs of lazy eye.
How it’s treated: Your eye doctor might prescribe special eye drops or an eye patch to cover the stronger eye, forcing the brain to use the weaker eye and strengthen it as a result. Glasses are also often prescribed if the lazy eye is the result of a refractive error.
What it is: This is a misalignment of the eyes. Instead of lining up properly and working as a team, the eyes may turn in, out, up, or down. If it’s not detected and corrected early on, it can lead to amblyopia.
What to look for: Crossed eyes are the biggest symptom, but it may also look like one of your child’s eyes is aiming in the wrong direction or that the eyes just aren’t moving together. Your child may also have headaches, difficulty reading or complain of eye strain.
How it’s treated: Similar to lazy eye, strabismus is often remedied with an eye patch over the eye that is properly aligned, which forces the misaligned eye to work. Surgery or special glasses can also do the trick.
The Importance of Early Detection
Left untreated, eye problems in children can lead to permanent damage or vision loss, but the good news is that all of these common conditions are treatable. That’s one reason that regular eye exams are so important. Vision screenings performed at school tell only part of the story or your child’s eyes.
When your child is an infant your pediatrician or family doctor will check for any eye troubles during their routine exam, but as your child approaches school age, it’s time for a visit to the eye doctor.
The American Optometric Association recommends children have an eye examination at least once between 3 and 5 years old, and once a year after first grade until they graduate. Your eye doctor will be able to recommend the right frequency for your child based on health and family history.
Of course, anytime you notice anything unusual with your child’s vision, or if they are concerned about their vision or tell you they are having headaches or double vision or other eye problems, be sure to have their eyes checked to rule out any major issues.
We can’t wait to see your little one for their next eye exam. Give us a call to schedule your next appointment today.