Good eye health starts at an early age. But a child who appears to have perfect 20/20 sight could still have a vision problem.
Book your Child’s Free Eye Test
Young children generally have their eyesight tested during routine checks by a paediatrician or family doctor. But, to ensure that any vision issues are identified, an eye test by a qualified optometrist is essential. It is recommended that children should have their eyes examined by an optometrist at the age of 3 years old. It is also important your child has an eye test at the optometrist before they commence full-time education. School-aged children should have an eye test every two years, or yearly if they need glasses or contact lens.
Childhood vision problems can be difficult to detect, so a regular eye test is important for early diagnosis and treatment.
The most common vision problems in children are classified as refractive errors which affect how light is bent (refracted) as it passes through the cornea and the lens to be focused on the retina. These vision problems include Myopia, Hyperopia, and Astigmatism.
- Myopia or near-sightedness is when your child can see objects close but objects that are farther away are blurry. Near-sightedness typically is diagnosed in the pre-teen years. Near-sightedness also tends to run in families. So, if you or your partner has glasses, chances are your child may need glasses in the future.
- Hyperopia or Farsightedness is the condition where you can see distant objects but have difficulty focusing on objects that are up close.
- Astigmatism is a condition in which a child’s vision is blurry both close-up and far -away.
Children rarely complain about poor vision. It’s up to parents and teachers to know the warning signs.
So how do you know if your child may be experiencing vision problems?
9 warning signs your child needs an eye test.
1. Consistently sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close
If you observe your child continually sitting too close to the TV or reading a book close to their face this may be a sign that your child unable to see objects from far away (myopia).
2. Complaining of eye strain headaches or tired eyes
Your child may complain of headaches as a result of straining their eyes to focus better. Eye fatigue or strain may be a symptom of refractive vision problems such as myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism.
3. Frequent eye rubbing
If you observe your child rubbing his or her eyes, they may be suffering from eye fatigue or strain. Eye strain can be caused by several reasons including not getting enough sleep, allergies, dry eyes or blurred vision.
It has been found that children who have excessive screen time (amount of time staring at digital displays of TVs, computers, iPads, and smartphones) tend to experience digital eye strain. The symptoms are generally dry eyes, eye strain headache and blurred vision which may be frequent and persistent. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends less than 60 minutes per day on screen for children between the ages of one to four.
4. Squinting or tilting the head to see better
People tend to squint to bring objects into focus. The iris (coloured part of your eye) is like the aperture on a camera. When the pupil becomes smaller, less light enters, and this results in sharpening the focus. The same effect can be achieved by looking though a pinhole.
If you notice your child be frequently squinting, this could signal that your child is either nearsighted (difficulty seeing objects far away) or farsighted (difficulty seeing objects close-up).
5. Losing focus or falling behind in school or extra-curricular activities.
It has been reported that greater than 80% of learning is visual. Whether it’s on a whiteboard, in a book or on a computer screen – even the smartest students will struggle in the classroom if they have trouble with their vision.
6. Losing their place while reading or using the finger to guide their eyes when reading
If you notice your child requiring a finger to guide their eyes while reading, they may suffer from binocular vision problems. Binocular vision problems are usually associated with symptoms such as headaches, eye strain, eye pain, double vision and blurred vision.
What we see is the result of the signals sent from both our eyes to the brain, this binocular vision system involves:
- Accommodation (eye focusing): Children with accommodative issues have trouble focusing either when they look at near or far objects or they may have trouble changing their focus between.
- Vergence (eye teaming): When we look at an object, the eyes must rotate so that the projection of the image is in the centre of the retina in both eyes. For example, eyes rotate towards each other (convergence) to look at an object that is close. Or, when looking at an object in the distance, the eyes rotate away from each other (divergence).
Children that have trouble turning their eyes in to read may be diagnosed with convergence insufficiency which can have the symptoms of fatigue, eye strain, or headaches after only 5 to 10 minutes of reading.
- Oculomotor (eye tracking): Children with oculomotor issues may be more likely to lose their place while reading, and often use their finger or a ruler to compensate.
Binocular vision anomalies can be easily diagnosed during an eye test at the optometrist. These conditions are treated with lenses, prisms or vision therapy. Optometrists are also able to provide recommendations to teachers to help students with binocular vision problems.
7. Blurry Vision in one eye | Closing one eye to read, watch TV or see better
Lazy eye (Amblyopia) is a condition where there is a blurry vision in one or both eyes. Two common causes are:
- crossed eyes, or
- a difference in the level of vision between the two eyes
If untreated, amblyopia can cause irreversible visual loss in the affected eye.
Amblyopia is best treated as early as possible, ideally before a child is 8 years old. Treatment may involve glasses, patches, eye drops or surgery.
8. One or both eyes are turning in or out.
Strabismus is a vision condition in which both eyes do not properly align or focus when looking at an object. It is a problem with how your eyes coordinate their movements. If your child has strabismus, one eye looks directly at the object they are viewing, while the other eye is misaligned inward (esotropia, or “crossed eyes), outward (exotropia or “wall-eyed”), upward (hypertropia) or downward (hypotropia).
Early diagnosis and treatment are essential in preventing irreversible vision loss. Treatments include a combination of glasses, eye exercises, eye patching or surgery.
9. The pupil is white or grey instead of black
Sometimes, parents may notice when they look at a photograph of their child that the child’s pupil appears white. Normally, when you shine the light directly on the pupil (like in a photo with a flash) it should appear red.
However, in leukocoria, the light makes the pupil look white. Leukocoria is not a specific disease but is a condition that needs urgent medical attention.
Some conditions which present with leukocoria include:
- Retinal detachment
- Coats’ Disease (a developmental vascular malformation of the retina that can lead to retinal detachment)
Optometrists are specially trained to test children’s eyes using age-appropriate charts in a friendly environment.
Book an appointment for your child with the experienced team at Allied Eye Care. We will be able to detect, diagnose and monitor vision problems even when symptoms may not be apparent.