Healthy Living

Signs that Your Child May Have Eye Issues

Children need many skills to succeed at school and play safely, and good vision is one of them. In the US, approximately 25.3% of children aged two to 17 wear glasses or contact lenses. Common vision problems include nearsightedness, astigmatism, and amblyopia (or lazy eye). Early diagnosis of underlying problems is key. In fact, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that infants have their first comprehensive eye exam at the age of six months. If there is a family history of eye problems or signs of eye problems, however, you should see an eye doctor earlier. Read on to discover a few tell-tale signs of common eye issues.

Squinting. Covering One Eye, and Getting Close to Reading Material

If your child squints while reading, covers one eye, or places books too close to their eyes, they may need glasses. Their teacher may also report that they cannot read the blackboard unless they are seated close to it and this issue can often be fixed with prescription glasses. However, these signs can also indicate the presence of other conditions like strabismus (misaligned eyes). Strabismus can come and go in children younger than six months, as it can be a sign of poor muscle strength in the eye. However, this condition can also last beyond this period of a child’s life, which is why early diagnosis and treatment is key. To treat strabismus, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend the use of a patch to strengthen the weaker eye, though other approaches (including eye exercises) also exist. 

Rapid Uncontrolled Eye Movements, Poor Vision, and Whitish/Grayish Pupils

These symptoms may indicate the presence of childhood cataracts, which can be very difficult to spot when a child is young. This is why babies’ eyes are examined within 72 hours of birth and again six to eight weeks later as part of routine screening. In some cases (for instance, if vision is affected), a child may be prescribed surgery. Typically, this surgery is covered by insurance. However, deductibles and copayments may be involved and costs can vary from state to state. For this reason, some families opt to travel interstate to receive the required treatment. For instance, ophthalmology services in Texas may cost less than the same services in New York or Los Angeles. Parents should research their options well and ensure the surgeon they choose is well-reputed, recommended, and highly experienced.

Seeing Double

Double vision can also be a sign of strabismus, since with this condition, one eye may be focusing well while the other drifts inward, outward, upward, or downward. However, other causes can include traumatic injury and nerve palsies, which can result in damage to the optic nerve, retina, or cornea. Treatment can include vision therapy, medication, and the use of prism glasses (which ‘trick the eye’ into believing an object is in a different location to improve eye alignment). In some cases, surgery is recommended.

Children need good vision to succeed at school and at play. Make sure your child visits an ophthalmologist when recommended and watch out for signs that they may need glasses or other treatments. Bear in mind that conditions like lazy eye and strabismus need to be treated early if they are to be corrected. In some cases, therapy may be required instead of (or alongside) eyeglasses.

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