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Vision Problems in Children

What kinds of vision problem can children have?

Most vision problems are caused by an incorrect shape of the eye, or the clear covering of the eye. These problems include:

  • Astigmatism. Astigmatism means that your child’s vision is somewhat blurry all the time. This condition is very common.
  • Nearsightedness. Nearsightedness means that your child sees close objects clearly, but distant objects are blurry.
  • Farsightedness. Farsightedness is when your child sees distant objects clearly, but close objects are blurry.

Other problems include:

  • Crossed Eyes (Strabismus). Strabismus means that your child’s eyes point in different directions. Usually one eye is pointed straight ahead and the other is pointed in a different direction.
  • Lazy Eye (Amblyopia). Lazy eye is reduced vision that happens when one or both eyes do not develop normal sight during early childhood. Normally, both eyes work together to send pictures to the brain. The brain blends the two pictures into a single, clear picture. If pictures from each eye are different, the brain ignores the picture from one eye to avoid confusion. Over time your child may not be able to see as well out of one eye.
  • Color Blindness. Color blindness means your child has a hard time seeing the difference between certain colors. It does not mean that your child cannot see any colors, which is very rare.
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity. In babies who are born before 30 weeks, abnormal blood vessels may start to grow inside the eye. This may cause vision problems or even blindness if not treated. All premature babies should have their eyes checked soon after birth.

What are the symptoms?

Your child may have a vision problem if he often:

  • Rubs his eyes a lot, or complains that they are itchy, burning, or feel scratchy
  • Closes or covers one eye to help him see
  • Tilts his head forward to help him see
  • Has trouble reading or doing other close-up work, or holds objects close to his eyes to see
  • Blinks more than usual or seems frustrated when looking at things close-up
  • Says that things are blurry or hard to see
  • Gets headaches or gets dizzy after doing close-up work
  • Often squints his eyes or frowns
  • Has one eye that looks to the side instead of straight ahead

How are they diagnosed?

During regular well baby exams, from birth to 2 years of age, your child's healthcare provider will check for eye problems. Any child who fails a school vision test should have a complete eye exam as soon as possible. If you or your healthcare provider think there could be a problem, your child may need to see an eye specialist. There are 3 kinds of eye specialists:

  • Ophthalmologists are medical doctors. They can give eye exams, diagnose and treat eye diseases, and do surgery on the eyes.
  • Optometrists can check vision and diagnose eye problems.
  • Opticians fill prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses. They do not diagnose or treat diseases of the eye.

Having your child's vision checked is especially important if someone in your family has had vision problems.

How are they treated?

Treatment depends on the type of vision problem your child has. Possible treatments include:

  • Glasses or contact lenses
  • Medicine
  • Patches
  • Surgery
  • Eye exercises

For more information contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-02
Last reviewed: 2014-12-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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