Are You Concerned About Your Child’s Eye Health?

Little girl with glasses

 Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, observed in August, is an important reminder to parents and caregivers about the importance of routine eye exams for children.

Parents and caretakers can learn to be aware of how eye health affects overall development and well-being. It’s also important to know when to seek help from an eye specialist if issues arise.

Vision problems can easily go undiagnosed in children. Young kids may lack the knowledge to describe what is wrong or fail to recognize the signs of a vision problem.

It’s important for parents to know the signs to be proactive and to take the necessary steps to ensure your child’s eyes are healthy.

When Should Children See an Eye Doctor?

It is important for children to have their eyes checked with a vision screening regularly, regardless of age.

Dr. Lingkun Kong, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist at CHRISTUS Children’s, says age is not the major factor in deciding when your child sees an eye doctor.

Instead, Dr. Kong recommends asking yourself three questions to determine if your child needs to see an eye doctor.

The first question to ask yourself is, do you have any concerns about your children’s vision? Can you tell they are not seeing well?

“Are they sitting too close to the television? Are their eyes not rolling or moving properly?” Kong said.

Secondly, do you have a family history of eye disease?

“If any members of your family had some eye disease, I would suggest establishing care with an eye doctor as soon as their child is born,” Kong said.

Number three, does the school recommend your child get a vision check?

“Your school should do a vision check at the start of the school year, and if a teacher has any concerns for your child, go see a doctor,” Kong said.

Should Your Child Take Breaks from Screen Time?

Encouraging your child to take regular breaks from screen time is an important part of keeping their eyes healthy and balanced.

For example, Kong says to take a 20-minute break after having a screen time of 20 minutes.

“Make sure their eyes can have a rest,” Kong said.

She suggests going for a walk outdoors or going into the backyard to play and get some exercise.

“Some studies have shown you can prevent your eyes from having myopia, which means nearsightedness, by exercising. This means anything you do outdoors like running around or walking in your backyard really helps your eyes relax and prevent myopia,” Kong said.

Reading a physical book, painting, drawing, or just taking a break from looking at a screen can all be beneficial for your eye health.

Read more about screen time here.

Are Frequent Headaches a Sign of Eye Vision Problems in Children?

If your child experiences frequent or severe headaches, it could indicate an underlying vision issue.

“Sometimes parents miss an eye problem in children when they have headaches,” Kong said.

Kong says an issue a school-aged child can have is that their eyes can get strained if they do not see properly when reading.

“It really strains their eyeballs, and it causes headaches,” Kong said.

Kong advises parents not to ignore frequent headaches but to see an eye doctor to find out if poor vision is the cause.

“Sometimes your kid has misalignment issues such as drifting eyes and cross eyes,” Kong said. “Sometimes parents miss it at home. And if you go to see your eye doctor, sometimes the case is severe enough you need surgery or a simple pair of glasses that will solve the problem.”

Can Low Grades be a Sign of Poor Vision in Children?

Children with poor vision may have difficulty with school activities, such as reading the whiteboard, seeing the words on a test page clearly, or seeing the teacher’s facial expressions. This can lead to frustration and difficulty understanding lessons and completing assignments, leading to lower grades.

Kong said that children with undiagnosed vision problems often perform poorly in school, causing frustration for the child, their teachers, and their parents. Sometimes, all that is needed is an eye exam and a simple fix with glasses or other treatments.

Kong said she’s seen so many cases where the child’s grades and overall performance improve drastically after getting vision treatment.

“Their self-esteem improves, and they behave like a totally different kid,” Kong said.

Parents need to monitor their child’s academic performance to look for signs of poor vision, which could be causing low grades.

Signs that a Child Should See an Eye Doctor

Common signs that a child needs to see an eye doctor to get their eyes examined include:

  • Frequent Eye Rubbing
  • Blinking Excessively
  • Misalignment of eyes
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Struggling to focus on objects or words
  • Poor hand-eye coordination and clumsiness
  • Frequent headaches
  • Avoiding tasks that require close vision, such as reading and writing
  • Eye Pain

What Eye Conditions Are Common in Children?

Children can experience a variety of eye conditions, ranging from mild and common to severe and rare. Common childhood eye conditions include:

  • Strabismus (crossed eyes): A condition in which the eyes do not line up properly and point in different directions.
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye): A vision development disorder in which the vision in one eye is reduced because the brain favors the other.
  • Refractive errors: Refractive errors include nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism, all of which can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
  • Congenital cataracts: An opacity on the lens of the eye can cause vision loss.
  • Glaucoma: An increase in the pressure inside the eye, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP): A disorder caused by abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of premature babies.
  • Color blindness: Difficulty distinguishing between colors due to the lack of one or more of the color-detecting cones in the eye.
  • Nystagmus: An involuntary rapid movement of the eyes that can cause blurred vision and depth perception problems.

Early diagnosis and treatment for childhood eye conditions are essential for preventing vision loss and further difficulties in school and everyday activities. If you have concerns about your child’s vision, contacting an eye care professional is important.