Like all parents, you want what’s best for your child, including healthy vision. While school vision tests can help indicate vision problems, it also pays to know what behaviors to look out for in case your child is having trouble seeing. This can give you a leg up on scheduling an appointment with your family optometrist rather than waiting for other problems to develop.
Five signs your child is struggling with their eyesight are:
- Sitting too close to screens or holding devices too close
- Covering one eye or tilting their head to see better
- Constantly rubbing their eyes
- Trouble focusing on school work
Knowing what signs of vision trouble to look out for won’t just help your child in school. It will ensure that they have a lifetime of healthy vision!
1. Sitting Too Close to Screens or Holding Devices Too Close
Parents have worried about the effects of screens on their children’s eyesight since the first televisions made their way into American living rooms. Since then, the number of televisions, computer screens, and handheld devices such as gaming systems and smartphones has exploded and become central to our daily lives.
Between too many screens and children’s tendency to sit or hold them closer than parents may like, it’s perfectly natural that parents worry about how they’re affecting their children’s vision. Fortunately, experts have found that children can sit closer without experiencing the same level of eye strain that adults do.
On the other hand, this may be a sign of nearsightedness in some children. Also known as myopia, nearsightedness is when your child can see close objects easily but objects further away may seem blurry or out of focus. This occurs when their eyeball is longer than normal and affects how light hits the retina of their eye.
To tell the difference between nearsightedness and “kids being kids,” pay attention or ask them why they’re sitting close to screens or holding devices closely. If they say it’s to see better then you should set up an appointment with your optometrist as soon as possible.
Squinting is another common sign that your child may have problems with their vision. If you’ve ever squinted to see better, and we all have, then you know that squinting helps us to temporarily focus on an object to see it more clearly. However, squinting all the time to see more clearly may be a sign of vision problems and children are no different.
Your family eye doctor will be best equipped to diagnose why your child is squinting a lot, but one of the most common reasons is due to a refractive error. When functioning normally, light enters the eye through the cornea and makes its way through the pupil, lens, vitreous humor, retina, optic nerve, and finally the brain in order to produce the images we see. Refractive errors occur when this process is prevented due to a misshapen eye.
There are a few different types of refractive errors, but some are more common than others. Common refractive errors include astigmatism, hyperopia, and myopia which we’ve already mentioned. While all of these problems stem from a misshapen eye, they all affect children’s vision in different ways.
Astigmatism is the result of two focal points falling in two different directions due to an abnormally curved cornea. It can make both distant and close objects appear blurry and can occur with farsightedness or nearsightedness.
Hyperopia is known more commonly as farsightedness and is the most common type of refractive error. Hyperopia occurs when distant objects are focused from behind the retina due to the eyeball being too short or because its refractive abilities are too weak. People with hyperopia can experience headaches or eye strain due to trying to focus on close-up work.
Like myopia, your child’s eye doctor is best equipped to diagnose a refractive disorder. Schedule an appointment immediately if you suspect that your child is struggling to see due to astigmatism, hyperopia, or myopia.
3. Covering One Eye or Tilting Their Head to See Better
Have you noticed your child covering one eye or tilting their head in order to see better? If so, they may be attempting to adjust their angle of vision in order to see objects more clearly. This may be a sign of amblyopia, which is one of the most common vision problems for children.
Also known as lazy eye, amblyopia occurs when the eye and brain aren’t working together like they should. This could be due to strabismus (misaligned eyes) or having a refractive error in one eye. You’ll want to have these treated as soon as possible to help prevent it from becoming permanent. Fortunately, even older children can still benefit from treatment.
There are two treatments for amblyopia: patching and atropine. Patching is when the child wears a patch over their strong eye in order to make the weak eye work harder and get stronger. Atropine is an eye drop medication that’s dropped into the strong eye to make it weaker. Like patching, it forces the weak eye to work harder while also stimulating the vision part of the brain.
4. Constantly Rubbing Their Eyes
Rubbing your eyes is an indicator of eye strain or fatigue. If your child does this a lot, it could mean that they’re overworking their eyes and that there’s a problem with their vision. It may also point to allergic conjunctivitis or dryness.
Dryness is a very common problem with using digital devices. Blinking spreads tears across your eyes, but your blink rate decreases when you use digital devices. This results in your eyes beginning to dry which can lead to physical symptoms such as blurred vision.
Allergic conjunctivitis is very common in East Tennessee due to all of the pollen and allergens that accumulate in the Spring and Fall. The most common symptom with allergies is itching and swelling of the eyelids. This can be treated with over-the-counter allergy drops.
5. Trouble Focusing on School Work
School classrooms are a lot more demanding than when you were young. It’s no longer simply a matter of looking from the board to the book or notes on their desk. Now children have to adjust between the board, textbooks, computers, tablets, as well as any other educational aid being used in the classroom.
This can be a struggle for any child, but especially for those suffering from an undiagnosed vision problem. Combine that with coping mechanisms like squinting or rubbing their eyes and you have a child that can easily fall behind in their work and see their grades slip. What may seem like an inability to pay attention may actually be difficulty in seeing correctly.
This list is not a comprehensive one. If you suspect that your child is having trouble seeing properly, contact your family optometrist immediately and schedule a checkup for your child. Not only will it help them do better in school, but it can help improve their quality of life as they no longer struggle to see the world around them.
Located at 10904 Spring Bluff Way off Hardin Valley Road, Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has provided the highest quality vision care products and trusted optometry services to our patients in Knoxville and the surrounding areas since 2009. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each and every person who walks through our door. Call us at (865) 409-1253 or contact us to schedule your appointment.