How to Recognise Common Vision Problems in Children
Vision changes can be subtle, especially in children.
Some kids hide vision problems to avoid getting glasses. Although a back-to-school physical usually includes a brief eye exam, your child’s eyes can change during the year.
What Can Cause Vision Problems in Children?
Short-sightedness, also called myopia, happens when the shape of the eyeball changes. This causes light to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it so that things at a distance look blurry.
Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” affects about 3-4% of children in Ireland according to the Irish College of Ophthalmologists. This is caused by a lack of normal visual development during childhood. When a child has amblyopia, they are not able to focus properly with one of their eyes. The other eye will often make up for this problem, resulting in the affected eye becoming “lazy.”
According to the HSE, strabismus, sometimes called a “squint,” is a condition where both eyes do not align properly and point in different directions. It is very common and affects about 1 in 20 children. The condition usually develops before a child is five.
Vision problems in children usually start between the ages of 6 and 12, so regular eye and vision care are important during the elementary school years.
How Do You Know if Your Child Needs Glasses?
Unless your child is eager to get glasses, he or she may not tell you about vision concerns. So, how do you know if your child needs glasses? Signs of myopia in kids include:
- Holding books, tablets, or homework close to the face
- Sitting too close to the TV
- Squinting or closing one eye to read
- Frequent headaches
- Excess watering of the eye
- Rubbing eyes
Worsening school or athletic performance, or withdrawal from those activities could indicate a vision problem. Asking to sit at the front of the classroom – or closer to their tablet or laptop if they are learning remotely – also may be a sign that your child has trouble seeing.
When to See an Eye Doctor
If your child is showing signs of vision problems, make an appointment with an eye doctor. It’s important to treat the problem in children early so it doesn’t affect their school performance or interfere with hobbies and sports.
Most children get glasses first. Contacts are also safe for children to wear; it’s just a matter of whether you feel your child is ready for them.
For most people, vision continues to change between the ages of 6 and 20. Your children should have their vision checked annually, or more often if a child has one of the above conditions.
If you think your child is having trouble seeing, make an appointment to see a trusted consultant ophthalmologist at UPMC Kildare Hospital.