It can be difficult to know that our child has difficulties with his vision, because even he may not realize it. If the vision problem is something that has been around since the beginning of his life, he might take it as the norm and give you no indication that something is wrong. Therefore, as parents, we must pay attention to these signs that it may present.

Babies can only focus at distances of about 10 inches from their faces for the first two months, and their eyesight begins to improve at 3-4 months. They begin to develop some type of depth perception and coordination over the next year, but vision problems are usually not apparent until the early years , when children begin to play with more complex toys and interact with their peers.

First manifestations of vision problems in children

The most common problems children face with their vision generally manifest between the ages of 18 months and 4 years. These come in the form of amblyopia (a lazy eye) and strabismus (crossed eyes).

Amblyopia is a problem with a person’s visual acuity and can develop as a result of strabismus, while strabismus itself is a problem with misalignment of the eyes, even if the acuity is still there. Strabismus affects up to 5% of children, making it the most common visual problem among young children.

Uneven focus, where the child has only one eye with good visual dexterity, is also quite common, affecting up to 3% of children. This can be corrected with prescription glasses, and hyperopia in children is something that can also be corrected over time without any treatment.

Experts estimate that about 25% of children who start school have some kind of vision problem , which could interfere with classroom activities. This is particularly concerning, as around 80% of what children learn in school is assimilated visually. If their sight prevents them from understanding and processing information, it can have serious impacts on their daily school life.

12 signs of vision problems in children

These are usually the main characteristics that a child with vision problems presents. Most of it, if detected early, can be reversible.

1. Misaligned eyes

If you notice that your child is not looking in the same direction all the time, it could be a sign of strabismus. If left untreated, it can develop into amblyopia (a lazy eye) and lead to poor visual acuity in the affected eye. Once they reach the age of 9 or 10, any vision loss in the weaker eye is usually permanent, so early detection and treatment are vital .

2. Constantly bow your head

This can be an indication of ocular misalignment or the onset of amblyopia. Head tilting can help your child change his angle of vision and focus better with his stronger eye. They can also tilt their head to combat the effects of ptosis, a condition in which the eyelid falls into your line of sight, impairing your vision.

3. Cover one eye

Children who cover one eye to help them focus probably suffer from very poor vision in one eye, so poor that it is easier for them to ignore its signals completely, rather than trying to see using both eyes. Again, this may be a sign of double vision caused by strabismus, but if it worsens, it can develop into a severe lazy eye.

However, it can be effectively treated by placing a patch over the stronger eye to force the weaker one to work harder and thus become stronger.

4. Rubbing your eyes

If your child rubs his eyes frequently, it could be a sign of eyestrain as a result of straining to focus his vision . This may indicate the need to wear glasses, although a child rubbing his eyes when tired is also quite normal.

To rule out the possibility of needing glasses, the advisable thing to see repeatedly this behavior is to consult an ophthalmologist.

5. Headaches or eye pain

If your child complains of eye pain or a headache, this could also be due to eye strain. Constantly trying to increase the focus of blurry vision can put a lot of stress on your eyes, so these symptoms are certainly something to watch out for.

6. Squinting

Squinting can help a child focus on an object by changing the shape of their eye and reducing the amount of light entering the eye. It is a temporary solution to improve your vision when you have difficulty concentrating in a particular distance.

Again, this is a sign that they might need glasses and a consultation with a specialist doctor would be the most appropriate.

7. watery eyes

If you notice excessive tearing in your child’s eye, it could be due to a condition called ophthalmus lag . This happens when a person’s eyes don’t close completely during sleep, causing them to dry out. You can find more information about dry eyes here , tears can occasionally interfere with good vision and make objects look blurry.

8. Look closely at screens or books

If your child is sitting near the TV or holding books or tablets close to their face to read, they are likely nearsighted. They may not be able to communicate this to their parents if this type of vision is what they have always known, or if the deterioration of their vision has been gradual. The longer myopia is left untreated, the worse it can be, so it is important to see an ophthalmologist right away.

9. Missing lines while reading

The   Astigmatism is a condition in which the eyeball of a person is not completely round and leans more towards the shape of a rugby ball. The severity of this can vary, but in general, the rougher the shape of the eye, the blurrier the vision.

The condition can also distort vision, which means that children who have astigmatism may have trouble keeping their crosshairs when reading lines on a page. If your child frequently misses lines when reading, an astigmatism could be the explanation.

10. General clumsiness

If your child always bumps into doors or looks clumsy when picking up toys and school supplies, it could be that they are not seeing things around them correctly. Monitor their behavior and book an eye test if you think their clumsiness could be related to vision.

11. Sensitivity to light

Increased sensitivity to light can occur as a result of exotropia, a type of strabismus. This is where one or both eyes turn outward, and it can often be activated by exposure to bright light.

One sign of this may be that your child squints or closes one eye to the sun, which is very normal, but may be more of a problem when combined with strabistic eye movements.

12. Trouble focusing on homework

If your child is having difficulty adapting his visual focus to various distances at school, it may be easier for him to mentally disconnect from the task at hand. If you need good near vision to write, and good distance vision to read the whiteboard and screens, it can be a challenge to switch from one to the other.

This can sometimes seem like a lack of focus on school work, but there could be more than meets the eye to what appear to be behavior problems.

Recommendation for parents

Children should have a complete eye exam at around 3 years of age to detect any refractive error and be prescribed glasses, either for short or long vision, if necessary. If tests show that the child has some form of amblyopia, treatment may include patches or drops to strengthen the weaker eye. Most of the 12 signs and symptoms we mentioned above are very common, and the number of children wearing glasses is growing all the time.

While most vision correction surgeries, such as laser eye surgery, are not suitable for people under the age of 18, glasses and contact lenses for teens are an effective temporary solution. If you are concerned about your child’s vision, visit an ophthalmologist as soon as possible for a wide range of eye exams, to avoid future consequences.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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