In the first years of your child’s life, their eyes are going through a lot of changes. They start out their existence seeing only in shades of gray, but by their first birthday, bam! The world becomes full of light, shapes and a dazzling array of colors.
However, sometimes things can go a little wrong, but if your child is very young, it’s hard to detect emerging problems with their eyesight. What are common eyesight issues children face—and what symptoms should we be (ahem) keeping an eye out for?
Dr. Chunlei Fan, director of the optometry department at Aier Intech Eye Hospital, outlines some of the eyesight problems that young children can develop. The first is farsightedness, which is common in young children. Farsighted children will have problems focusing on things close up, and will experience difficulty, for example, trying to read books. If left uncorrected, farsightedness can lead to crossed or wandering eyes (medically known as strabismus).
Nearsightedness is another common problem that has sharply increased over the past few decades due to modern lifestyles. Nearsightedness means your child has difficulty seeing distant objects, which aren’t necessarily all that far away. Nearsighted children often have problems seeing the television or school whiteboard clearly.
Luckily, both these common maladies are an easy fix if your child is properly fitted for glasses or contacts. Children may also have problems with astigmatism, where their vision becomes blurred or distorted; but, like other eyesight problems, glasses can easily fix the problem.
So even if the eyesight problems are easily fixed with corrective lenses, discovering your child’s vision problems may not be as simple. Poor grades can result from something as simple as not seeing the board clearly—and eyesight can continue to deteriorate if not caught early. That’s why it is so important to detect problems as soon as possible.
Symptoms vary depending on the exact problem, Dr. Fan explains. If your child has astigmatism, you may notice an unusual sensitivity to light. Children with astigmatism might squint in daylight, even when it’s not especially bright outside. In the summer, they might complain about how tired their eyes feel, or that they are having headaches.
Children that have farsightedness will display other symptoms. Reading a book becomes exhausting, or they may squint when writing or drawing up close. Nearsighted kids will have opposite problems—they’ll try to focus more on faraway objects, and you will typically find them sitting incredibly close to the television screen. They’ll also be unable to read out billboards, shop signs or a whiteboard. You’ll find them squinting in these situations in an attempt to focus more clearly.
General symptoms that accompany vision problems include recurring headaches, eye-rubbing even when your child isn’t sleepy, or incessant blinking. If your child constantly tilts their head or experiences chronic redness or chronic tearing, see an eye doctor to determine the exact cause. Don’t forget that vision problems won’t be obvious to children themselves—they may believe that everyone sees this way and it is nothing unusual.
Dr. Fan explains that sometimes children younger than the age of 2 have problems with sight in one eye. If you have inklings that this is the case, you can try a simple test. Cover one of your baby’s eyes. If she expresses an obvious discomfort or tries to move your hand away, this might be a signal that she has vision problems in one eye. Arrange an appointment with a pediatrician to make sure nothing is out of the ordinary.
Children should be routinely checked for eye health, especially when they are under the age of 5. When kids get a bit older, schools are usually in charge of arranging eye exams. As Dr. Fan explains, everyone should think of eye exams in the same way as visits to the dentist. Catching health problems early will prevent more serious issues developing later.
How many check-ups children should have per year depends on their age, but Dr. Fan advises that children over the age of 2 should have eye exams once a year. If the child exhibits symptoms of poor eyesight or already has diagnosed problems, these routine check-ups should increase to several times per year. Children under the age of 2 will typically have their eyes examined during their regular health check-ups with a pediatrician.
“The most important thing is to remember that getting glasses is not enough,” Dr. Fan points out. “If your child’s bad eyesight is because of bad habits, like staring at screens too often, make sure to break these bad habits and not just cover up the problem with eyewear.”
Cover Photo: https://www.pexels.com/photo/eyewear-glasses-child-girl-12703/
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