Just as with adults, children can have eye and vision problems. Fortunately most of them are not serious and are easily cured or managed. Parents may notice problems either by seeing a problem with the eye itself or via observing such things as poor hand-eye coordination or depth perception.
If you notice anything that doesn’t seem quite right, you should schedule an appointment with an optometrist as soon as possible so that the problem can be diagnosed and treated. Following is a description of some of the more common eye problems in children along with the common treatment.
Commonly referred to as lazy eye, this disorder is caused by poor vision or weak eye muscles. One or both of the eyes may point in differentÂ directions. If it’s just one eye, this is referred to as misalignment. If both eyes are affected and the eyes become crossed, it’s called strabismus. This is one of the most common eye problems in children and is usually correctable using a combination of corrective eye wear and daily eye exercises but occasionally surgery is required. If not treated by age 4, amblyopia can become permanent and untreatable.
Amblyopia may be either genetic or caused by another eye disorder such as a near-sightedness, far-sightedness or astigmatism that hasn’t been treated. Because these are all refractive errors (the cornea isn’t reflecting light correctly), it places a strain on the eyes and basically the brain has to pick which image to use. When one eye is consistently better than the other, the brain isn’t using the weak eye and amblyopia occurs. Symptoms may include headaches and poor depth perception.
Blocked Tear Duct
Frequently seen in infants, a blocked tear duct is also one of the more common eye problems in children. This occurs when the duct that runs from the eye to the nose is blocked or when the membrane covering the tear duct doesn’t open to allow drainage.
This condition results in too much tearing, eye drainage and crusty material in the eyelashes when the child wakes up. The baby may also rub the affected eye frequently. Treatment includes gently rubbing the area between the nose and the eye, using antibiotic drops and surgery.
This is another relatively common eye problem in children and if left untreated can lead to amblyopia. Refractive errors occur when the cornea or the eye is misshapen and doesn’t utilize light correctly. Types of refractive errors include nearsightedness, or myopia, farsightedness, or hyperopia, and astigmatism and can cause headaches, poor or blurry vision and eye fatigue.
With myopia, light is focused in front of the retina instead of on it, or more specifically, instead of light being focused on the back of the eye, it’s focused in the center. With hyperopia, the exact opposite happens; light is focused too far behind the eye.
Children with astigmatism have a cornea that is sort of football-shaped and the light is distorted at all different angles. All of these refractive errors may occur in either one or both eyes and need to be treated as soon as possible.
These are some of the more common eye problems but there are many more that are less common but can be much more serious. Because many of the eye problems in children get worse as the child gets older, it is extremely important that you schedule regular appointments with your family optometrist. If you notice any of the above problems, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment because your child’s future vision and eye health depends on it.