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Know the Signs of Vision and Eye Problems

Published by , on Sep 16, 2014

visionIf detected and treated early, many vision and eye problems can be minimized or even reversed. In addition to making sure children receive their routine childhood eye exams, parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms vision and eye problems – and when and where to go for help. In the article below, general pediatrician Dr. Linda Meloy reviews what parents need to watch for related to a child’s vision and eyes. The start of a new school year is a great time to brush up on this information as the symptoms of vision problems often become more evident when a child is attempting to read, write or complete other school-related activities.

Eye Exams
Routine vision exams start with an eye exam for newborns conducted by a pediatrician or physician before a baby leaves the hospital. As children grow, their routine medical exams typically include an eye-health screening during the first year of life, an eye-health screening and test of sharpness of vision around age 4, and an eye alignment/vision evaluation around age 5. These screenings and exams are conducted by a child’s doctor as part of regularly scheduled medical checkups. Vision testing is also provided by schools and can be performed at the request of the family during any doctor’s visit.

If a screening or test shows an area of concern, the child may be referred to an ophthalmologist, which is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing eye conditions and providing medical and surgical eye care. A child may also be referred to an optometrist, which is a health care professional who focuses on prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses and provides services similar to ophthalmologists, but not surgery. An optician is a technician who specializes in fitting eyeglasses and contact lenses using prescriptions given by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

Signs that a child may have vision problems include:
- Constant eye rubbing
- Extreme light sensitivity
- Poor focusing
- Poor visual tracking (following an object)
- Clumsy hand motions (child misses toys or objects when attempting to grab)
- Absent blink when objects come close to the eye
- Ignoring moving objects near the face
- Abnormal alignment or movement of the eyes after 4 months of age (strabismus crossing of eyes)
- Constant deviation of an eye at any age
- Long-lasting or recurring redness of the eyes
- Long-lasting or recurring tearing of the eyes
- A white pupil instead of black
- Unexplained swelling of eye or decreased eyelid movement
- Any pus in the eye which returns after wiping

In school-age children, watch for other signs such as:
- Inability to see objects at a distance
- Inability to read the blackboard
- Squinting
- Difficulty reading
- Sitting too close to the TV or computer screen

Note: Often, a child’s teacher may also notice that the child isn’t seeing well in the classroom.

Children with vision problems may also display:
- Trouble with eye-hand coordination needed for hitting a baseball or soft ball (visual motor integration)
- Problems judging depth in situations such as walking up and down stairs
- White pupils or crossed eyes in photographs
- Crossing of eyes when looking at close objects

An eye exam should be scheduled with a child’s doctor if a child displays signs of vision problems, squints frequently or experiences frequent headaches. It is important to schedule an exam quickly. Early detection can lead to a better outcome, and prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, if needed, can help improve a child’s learning, safety and daily life in numerous ways.

*Signs of vision problems provided by KidsHealth.org, one of the largest resources online for medically reviewed health information written for parents, kids and teens.

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