A child’s visual development is so critical to their academic and social success. Good vision goes beyond their ability to see in 20/20 — as kids grow and begin their academic journeys, many demands are placed on their eyesight since their eyes are in use all day, from reading, writing and participating in class.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), once they enter elementary school, children need to harness a host of vision skills. Good vision involves more than just the ability to see. Visual acuity, eye focusing, eye tracking and teaming, eye-hand coordination and visual perception all play a role in developing important visual perceptual skills, such as:
- Recognizing the differences between similarly shaped letters (i.e. b and d)
- Comprehending and picturing in their mind what they are reading
- Retaining and remembering details of what they read
Eye conditions in children can affect one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children, and it can affect their school performance, making friends and self-esteem. Poor vision may prevent reading what’s on the blackboard, especially if they’re seated further back in the classroom. Advancing through grade levels, children may have difficulty reading as the size of print in textbooks gets smaller, and they may be afraid to read aloud in class in fear of being made fun of by their classmates.
By staying alert to the signs and symptoms of pediatric eye conditions, parents and teachers alike can help treat some common visual problems that affect children.
What are some common children’s eye problems?
Refractive errors occur when the eye has a hard time focusing light on the retina (light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye). The most common refractive errors, which can cause blurred vision in children, include:
- Myopia (nearsightedness), the inability to see faraway objects; the most common refractive error in children
- Hyperopia (farsightedness), the inability to see objects up close
- Astigmatism, blurred or distorted vision at all distances, due to an abnormal curvature of the cornea
- Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” diminished vision in one eye, often due to a lack of communication between the brain and the affected eye
- Strabismus (crossed eyes), when both eyes are misaligned
Other common children’s eye conditions:
- Convergence insufficiency, when the eyes have difficulty converging, or working together, to focus on near objects
- Depth perception/3D vision problems
- Double vision
- Visual processing dysfunction
Recognizing Signs of Eye Conditions in Children
Although your child may complain of headaches or that things appear blurry, the Mayo Clinic says that some of these vision problems may often be “hidden.” They may go unnoticed because grade-school-age children may not yet have the ability to articulate that they’re not seeing clearly.
Parents and teachers may already be able to tell if their son, daughter or student is experiencing vision problems from some telltale signs, like squinting or placing reading material close up in order to see. But be vigilant and watchful for other, more inconspicuous signs of vision problems like:
- Short attention span: Children who may lose interest in playtime, games or other activities they normally enjoy may be withdrawing simply because they can’t see well.
- Losing place while reading: When a child has difficulty keeping track of their place on a page, or remembering what they read, it may be a sign of vision problems.
- Avoidance: Avoiding activities altogether that call for near focus like reading, drawing, playing games, etc., can also point to poor eyesight, but children may be unaware of the reason behind their behavior.
- Tilting their head to one side: An attempt by a child to try and see more clearly something they’re trying to read could be a sign they are suffering from a refractive error.
- Frequent eye rubbing, blinking or headaches are common reactions to vision problems
- Expressing discomfort or fatigue
- Sitting too close to the TV
How To Treat Pediatric Eye Conditions
A comprehensive pediatric eye examination can help diagnose if any of the above symptoms is linked to vision problems in your child. They must rely on their ability to see well as academics become more challenging with homework and schoolwork increasing in frequency and difficulty.
According to the AOA, if left undetected and/or untreated, children’s eye problems may lead to misdiagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) since the signs of poor vision may mimic ADHD symptoms, such as hyperactivity and distractibility. That’s why regular eye exams are so important at every stage of a child’s life to determine any changes in their vision.
Protect Your Child’s Vision With Complete Eye Care
Although glasses may help with these pediatric vision issues, vision therapy is the most common course of treatment. Complete Eye Care of Medina can help. If your child is exhibiting some of the above signs of impaired vision, contact us to schedule an appointment for them. Through therapy or corrective lenses, vision problems can be corrected and treated to protect your child’s eyesight.