How do I know if my child has an eye health problem?
The presence of eye and vision problems in infants is rare. Most babies begin life with healthy eyes and start to develop the visual abilities they will need throughout life without difficulty. But occasionally, eye health and vision problems can develop. Parents need to look for the following signs that may be indications of eye and vision problems:
- Excessive tearing - this may indicate blocked tear ducts
- Red or encrusted eye lids - this could be a sign of an eye infection
- Constant eye turning - this may signal a problem with eye muscle control
- Extreme sensitivity to light - this may indicate an elevated pressure in the eye
- Appearance of a white pupil - this may indicate the presence of an eye cancer
The appearance of any of these signs should require immediate attention.
How do I know if my child has a vision problem?
According to the American Public Health Association, about 10% of preschoolers have eye or vision problems. However, children this age generally will not voice complaints about their eyes.
Parents should watch for signs that may indicate a vision problem, including:
- Sitting close to the TV or holding a book too close
- Tilting their head
- Frequently rubbing their eyes
- Short attention span for the child's age
- Turning of an eye in or out
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty with eye-hand-body coordination when playing ball or bike riding
- Avoiding coloring activities, puzzles and other detailed activities
If you notice any of these signs in your preschooler, please give us a call.
Why does a child need glasses?
Children may need glasses for several reasons – some of which are different than for adults. Because a child's vision system is growing and developing, especially during the first 5-6 years of life, glasses may play an important role in insuring normal vision development. The main reasons a child may need glasses are:
- To provide better vision, so that a child may function better in his/her environment
- To help straighten the eyes when they are crossed or misaligned (strabismus)
- To help strengthen the vision of a weak eye (amblyopia or "lazy eye"). This may occur when there is a difference in prescription between the two eyes (anisometropia). For example, one eye may be normal, while the other eye may have a significant need for glasses caused by near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism.
- To provide protection for one eye if the other eye has poor vision
How can a child be tested for glasses, especially in infancy or early childhood?
Our optometrist can detect the need for glasses through a complete comprehensive eye exam. Typically, the pupils are dilated in order to relax the focusing muscles, so that an accurate measurement can be obtained. By using a special instrument, called a retinoscope, your eye doctor can arrive at an accurate prescription. The optometrist will then advise parents whether there is a need for glasses, or whether the condition can be monitored.
What are the different types of refractive errors (need for glasses) that can affect children?
There are 4 basic types of refractive errors:
- Myopia (near-sighted) – This is a condition where the distance vision is blurred, but a child can usually see well for reading or other near tasks. This occurs most often in school-age children, although occasionally younger children can be affected. The prescription for glasses will indicate a minus sign before the prescription (for example, -2.00). If the myopia is slight, allowing a child to sit a little closer to the front of the classroom may be an alternative.
- Hyperopia (far-sighted) – Most children are far-sighted early in life (this is normal!) and need no treatment for this because they can use their own focusing muscles to provide clear vision for both distant and near vision. Glasses are rarely needed if the far-sightedness is less than +1.00 or even +2.00. When an excessive amount of far-sightedness is present, the focusing muscles may not be able to keep the vision clear. As a result of this, problems such as crossing of the eyes, blurred vision, or discomfort may develop. A prescription for hyperopia will be preceded by a plus sign (+3.00).
- Astigmatism – Astigmatism is caused by a difference in the surface curve of the eye. Instead of being shaped like a perfect sphere (like a basketball), the eye is shaped with a greater curve in one axis (like a football). If your child has a significant astigmatism, fine details may look blurred or distorted. Glasses that are prescribed for astigmatism have greater strength in one direction of the lens than in the opposite direction. A prescription for astigmatism will have several numbers and will look something like this: -2.00 +2.50 X 90.
- Anisometropia – Some children may have a different prescription in each eye. This can create a condition called amblyopia, where the vision in one eye does not develop normally. Glasses (and sometimes patching) are needed to insure that each eye can see clearly.