An estimated 253 million people live with vision impairment. Over 80% of all vision impairment can be prevented or cured.
Undetected vision problems, such as refractive errors and blurry vision, can impact your child’s performance both in and out of the classroom. But how exactly can you tell if your child has vision problems?
Read on for the signs to look for that suggest that your child needs glasses.
Why Children Wear Eyeglasses
There are several possible reasons why your child may need glasses. The most common is to improve vision. Glasses can help your child see better up close (nearsightedness) or far away (farsightedness).
Glasses can also strengthen the vision in a weak or lazy eye. If children have poor vision in one eye, glasses protect their vision, so it doesn’t get worse.
If a child has crossed eyes or misaligned eyes, corrective glasses can improve the position of their eyes.
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Risk Factors for Vision Problems
Both genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of vision disorders.
Some factors make certain children are more likely to have vision problems and need glasses. If there is a family history of vision problems, you should take your child for an eye exam often.
Other risk factors that make vision problems more likely include if the child was born prematurely and if the mother smoked while she was pregnant.
Children with a hearing impairment, a neurological condition or any developmental delay (such as Down’s Syndrome, cerebral palsy, etc.) have a higher risk for vision problems.
Uncorrected Vision Problems
Wearing glasses does much more than just give the wearer the ability to see things clearly.
Uncorrected vision problems can interfere with academic learning impair development and lead to permanent loss of vision.
In pre-schoolers, uncorrected vision is linked to poor school readiness, lower motor function, lower cognitive function.
When to Get a Child’s Eye Exam
Have your child’s eyes checked at regular intervals.
Your doctor will perform the first test shortly after birth. The pediatrician should check your infant’s eyes between 6-12 months old.
A vision test when your child is a pre-schooler is essential. Doctors recommend another vision exam at age 3 and 5.
Always take your child for an eye exam if you suspect any vision loss.
Signs Your Baby Needs Glasses
Infant vision problems are harder to spot. If your baby is not reaching developmental milestones at the right time, it could be a sign of poor vision or developmental issues.
A baby should be able to maintain eye contact by eight weeks old. When she is 3-4 months old, she should be smiling at familiar people. When your baby is five months, he should watch and mimic hand movements of those around him.
By 6-7 months, your baby should be able to reach for objects. She should recognize familiar faces by 7-9 months such as her parents, siblings, grandparents. By the time your baby is 9-12 months, he should be pointing to pictures in a book.
If your infant does not meet the milestone for his or her age, it’s time for an eye exam. During the exam, the doctor will evaluate visual-motor development for signs of poor vision.
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Signs Your Child Needs Glasses
There are many signs that are symptoms of needing glasses. Even though children can communicate with you about what they see, their eyesight is normal to them. They can’t tell you that something is wrong.
Here is a list of commons telltale signs that indicate your child likely needs glasses.
Squinting is a big sign that your child needs glasses.
Squinting reduces how much light is entering the eye. It’s like when photographers narrow the aperture of a camera to get a tight focus.
When your child squints, he or she can momentarily improve the focus of an object and improve how clear it appears. Children will squint instinctively. They may not notice they are doing it.
A child may squint to see far away or to see up close. Squinting can indicate both nearsightedness and farsightedness. As these are the most common vision problems, it’s a good sign to watch out for.
Covering One Eye
Does your child frequently close one eye or cover it with one hand? This trick is something a child will do without even realizing it to improve his or her vision. Often this is a sign of double vision.
Tilting Head to One Side
A child may tilt his or her head to adjust the angle of their vision to improve clarity. This is one of the symptoms of needing glasses.
A tilting head can indicate that your child’s eyes are misaligned. It might mean that your child has amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.
This is one of the most frequent vision problems present in children. In amblyopia, the vision in one eye is compromised because the eye and the brain are not working together properly.
The cause of amblyopia might be misaligned eyes, or that one eye might need a different prescription than the other. The sooner this is treated, the better. After age 10, one eye’s vision may be blocked permanently.
The optometrist will suggest a treatment that could include glasses, an eye patch to strengthen the weak eye, eye drops, or a combination of these treatments.
Sitting Too Close to the TV
Sitting too close to the TV or holding a tablet or other device very close to the face are symptoms of needing glasses.
Bringing an object closer makes the image clearer for people who are nearsighted. Nearsightedness (or myopia) means that a person’s distance vision is poor. Objects that are far away become fuzzy and indistinct.
If your child brings objects very close to the face to look at them, you’ll need to book an eye exam.
Lowering Head While Reading
Like sitting too close to the TV, lowering the head while reading is a natural habit children will develop if they have trouble seeing things that are far away.
Lowering the head brings a child’s eyes closer to the words and pictures. If a child has a poor vision, they will naturally adjust their bodies to make their sight improve.
This sign is not conclusive on its own as children are just starting to read. New readers need big print that is easy to read when they are learning how to distinguish the different shapes each letter makes.
If you see this sign combined with any others, your best bet is to book your child an eye exam.
Watery or Dry Eyes
Keep an eye out to see if your child’s eyes are watery. This can be a symptom of eye strain.
When a person’s eyes have to strain to see well, it puts a lot of strain on the eye muscles. As a result, someone may get watery or dry eyes.
Dry eyes in a child may cause the whites of the eye to be red. Or your child may complain that his or her eyes are scratchy, itchy or painful. Take these comments seriously as they could be a sign of a severe medical or vision condition.
Watery eyes can also be a symptom of allergies. Either way, it’s essential to get to the cause of the issue.
Avoiding Certain Activities
If young children avoid certain activities, it could be because their vision makes those activities difficult or painful. For example, coloring, looking at books, playing tag or playing with a ball may cause eye strain if a child has vision problems.
If your preschooler avoids any activities that are common for that age group, it should be a warning sign to you that there may be an underlying reason you need to look into.
Most children will cross their eyes for fun. They are often delighted to discover something new they can do with their bodies. However, if your child is crossing their eyes when they are not being silly, this could mean they need glasses.
Notice if your child crosses his or her eyes during regular activities. If so, chances are your child is farsighted. Their eyes cross to try to see the near objects with better clarity.
Farsightedness usually is present at birth and tends to run in families. This vision problem is when a person can see objects in the distance well, but close objects are blurry.
Prescription glasses or eye surgery can correct this issue.
All children rub their eyes from time to time. Especially when they are tired and up past their bedtime.
Keep a watchful eye on children to see if they rub their eyes often, even when they are not tired. They might be trying to get rid of eye pressure or pain that is caused by straining their eyes to see better.
Eye rubbing could also be a sign of another condition such as allergies.
If your children tell you that their heads hurt frequently, they may need glasses. Take note of the time of day that a child mentions the head or eye pain.
If it is later in the day, the headache could be a sign of overexertion to try to correct blurry vision. Squinting all day to see the blackboard at school will result in headaches.
Ask your child where their head pain is the strongest. If the pain is in the front of the head near the eyebrows, this is one of the symptoms of needing glasses.
Chronic headaches can cause children to become anxious and stressed. Don’t leave the issue undiagnosed for long. Book an eye exam followed by a doctor’s appointment to determine the cause as soon as possible.
If your child complains about having to read, don’t assume it means they don’t like to read. If your child loses his or her place when reading paragraphs, some parents think the child has a learning disability or trouble concentrating.
When in fact, the child probably needs glasses. If you notice your son or daughter loses their place when reading or skips lines on a page, these are signs of vision problems.
The child could have astigmatism. Astigmatism causes blurred vision due to the cornea in the eye being an irregular shape. Glasses and contacts can correct astigmatism.
Astigmatism is often present with another vision condition such as near or farsightedness.
Lack of Focus on School Work
At school, children must switch their attention from various objects such as the whiteboard, computer, textbooks, tablets, and the teacher.
A lack of focus or concentration at school may be a symptom of needing glasses.
Remember, a child doesn’t know that their vision is poor most of the time. Especially if they have always needed glasses but never had them. The world looks much as it always did.
There could be other medical and developmental issues that can lead to a lack of concentration at school. So this is one symptom that you must pay close attention to.
Prepare your child for the Eye Exam
An eye exam may be scary for young children. To make the process go as smoothly as possible, talk to your child ahead of time to prepare them for the visit.
Explain that the doctor will show the child some pictures, lights or toys. Your child will be asked to follow the objects, point at specific objects or describe them.
The doctor will use lights to check the eyes’ alignment. Each eye will be covered with a paddle while the other eye looks at the light.
Make sure you tell your child that nothing the doctor does will hurt. Explain that the doctor is checking to see if the child gets to wear glasses or not.
Get them to express any fears and calmly assure them that you will be there the whole time and that he or she is safe.
Request an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam for your child.