Even if there are no risk factors or family history of eye problems, children need their vision checked at 6 months, 3 years, and before first grade. Find out more in our two part series on children’s vision!
Common Eye Problems in Children
During the preschool years, many vision problems can be detected during a routine vision screening. Your child’s health care provider will use an acuity chart during this exam. Common eye problems in children may include:
- Amblyopia:Sometimes called a lazy eye, this is poor vision in an eye that appears to be normal. If untreated during childhood, amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss or impairment in the affected eye.
- Strabismus: A misalignment of the eyes, commonly known as cross-eyed, which causes eyes to wander. Both eyes do not always aim at the same object. If one eye is misaligned constantly, amblyopia may develop in that eye. Healthy vision can be restored by patching the properly aligned eye and forcing the misaligned one to work harder. Surgery or specially designed glasses may also help.
- Refractive errors: These errors occur when the eye is incorrectly shaped and vision is blurry. The most common of these are:
- Nearsightedness, also known as myopia or poor distance vision. Nearsightedness is usually treated with glasses.
- Farsightedness, or hyperopia, is poor near-vision and is usually treated with glasses.
- Astigmatism is an abnormal curve of the front surface of the eye and is treated with glasses.
If Your Child Needs Glasses
If your child needs glasses, there are a few tips to keep in mind. Younger children should have plastic frames for safety. All children should wear lenses made of impact-resistant plastic. To ensure safety, many states regulate what materials may be used in children’s glasses.
An optician with experience in fitting children’s glasses can help your child choose frames and lenses that are stylish and safe. “If possible, let your child choose her own frames,” adds Repka.
If your child wears glasses, the day may come when she asks for contact lenses. Repka says children often begin asking for contacts around the time they start middle school. He encourages parents to let their child’s maturity level and ability to take care of lenses guide their decision about purchasing contact lenses. “Proper hygiene and care are critical to lens use,” he says. “Normal kid behavior can become a problem.”
Very serious eye problems can develop from improper contact lens care. The greatest risk is corneal infection. “Although this condition is uncommon, it can be very serious and may require a corneal transplant,” Repka says.
Children’s eye exams are a powerful tool for overall heath and can help in many ways. Repka recalls a kindergarten student who had a routine eye screening at school. The exam was abnormal and, as a result, they discovered a rare brain tumor. That exam helped save his life.
“He had no symptoms and that visual acuity test was the only way it could have been discovered,” he says.