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Toddlers and Childrens Vision Concerns

Parents are usually the first to notice that their children may have special vision needs, so if you have any concerns about your child’s vision, don’t hesitate to talk to your pediatrician or eye doctor.

Some issues require no treatment, while others may be corrected easily with eyeglasses, or other forms of correction. In all cases, the best chance to make sure your child’s vision is safe is to detect issues early with regular eye examinations.

Common Vision Issues for Children

According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, about 25 percent of school-age children require some vision correction to achieve 20/20 vision. Here are common eye conditions:

  • girl happy Nearsightedness, or myopia, affects distance vision. Your child may read without difficulty, but will squint to see objects that are across the playground or far off.
  •  Farsightedness, or hyperopia, causes blurred vision at all distances. A farsighted child struggles to focus on any object, whether the item is close by or across the room.
  •  Astigmatism is an inherited condition in which your cornea or, in some cases, the lens behind the cornea are misshaped (like a football). Astigmatism causes images to blur because light rays are focused on some parts of the eye and not others. Objects that are close-up or far off can be equally distorted.

These three issues can be corrected easily with corrective lenses.

What Sort of Things Should I Be on the Lookout for?

If you spot a problem or a strange behavior in your child’s eyes, be sure to contact your eye doctor immediately, regardless of your child’s age. While most children’s eyes develop normally, some of the problems can emerge in young children.

Choose the symptom below to learn more about, what to watch for, and the terms your eye doctor will use and how to get more information.

Crossed eyes

One eye may turn in towards the nose, or the eyes may seem to move independently, as if they can’t work together. This is known as strabismus, a condition that occurs when the eyes are not able to align on the same point at the same time, and appear to be misaligned or pointed in different directions. The eye that turns off-target may be the same in every incidence, or it could be a different eye at different times.

One child in 20 has crossed eyes or trouble tracking. Almost half of all cases aren't detected until after age five, past the time when they can be treated most effectively.

Drooping eyelid

If you child’s eyelid droops over the eye and appears as though it would block their vision, your child may be developing amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye.” Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, occurs when there is reduced vision in one eye because the eye and the brain are not working together. The brain may start to ignore the image from the amblyopic eye. Amblyopia normally only affects one eye - resulting in the amblyopic eye pointing away from the other appearing "lazy". It is often associated with strabismus, or crossed eyes, when an individual’s eyes  appear directed toward  two different points instead of one.

Milky white covering over the pupil

In rare cases, children develop childhood cataract in one or both eyes.  This can appear as a milky white covering over the pupil, and may be detected at birth. An ophthalmologist can correct the condition by surgically replacing the cloudy lens with a clear one, very often restoring your child’s eyesight.

Pink eyes

If your child's eyes are red and irritated, they may have a common condition called pink eye. It is a temporary condition.   

Vibrating Eyes

If your child’s eyes seem to jump, vibrate back and forth, or move erratically in a way that looks unusual to you, he or she may be one in about 670 born each year with nystagmus.  This condition may signal that the eyes’ motor system is not developing normally.  If you have a relative with nystagmus, or if you have it yourself, it’s possible that your child could develop this as well – so it’s important to tell your eye doctor during your child’s eye examination if nystagmus runs in your family.  The American Nystagmus Network provides a great deal of information on this unusual condition, its causes and treatment.