Children of all ages can develop vision problems at any point. Proper and frequent eye care is vital to the development of a child. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that children should have regular vision screenings by their pediatricians and early referral to the pediatric ophthalmologist if there are concerns for decreased visual acuity.
Visual learning (whiteboards, chalkboards, PowerPoint presentations, etc.) is the leading form of teaching at school. If your child is having a difficult time reading the material presented in class, his or her grades may suffer. Though teachers are in tune to watch for the warning signs, parents should also pay close attention.
While there a few physical symptoms that can indicate vision problems (such as droopy eyelids, chronic tearing, misaligned eyes, and cloudy pupils), there are other signs that can go undetected. Because of this, some schools require a comprehensive eye exam before a child starts classes, and some may provide exams throughout the year. Children often do not complain of decreased vision, so regular vision screenings are crucial. Certain warning signs may suggest decreased visual acuity in children:
Holds items close to the face or squints to see better: A child who sits too close to the television or holds a book close to their face may be nearsighted. If your child is squinting to read material or to see further away, this could also mean that they are nearsighted.
Rubs the eyes: While rubbing your eyes is common when one is tired or suffering from allergies, if a child is doing it frequently (particular when reading or watching television) it could be a sign of eye fatigue or a muscle imbalance problem.
Covers or closes one eye: If your child feels the need to close or cover one eye while reading or watching television, it could be a sign of an ocular misalignment.
Sensitive to light: Sensitivity to light (e.g. indoor lighting, sunshine outside, camera flashes) could be a sign of ocular pathology such as intraocular inflammation.
Frequent headaches: If your child complains of frequent headaches, he or she may be suffering from a refractive error that has not been properly corrected.
Tilts head when reading: Tilting the head could be a sign of a muscle imbalance in the eyes. While this might not happen as much at home, teachers should watch for this in the classroom, as some children may tilt their head when trying to read the board.
If your child is experiencing any of these problems, schedule an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist. Your child may only need a pair of glasses, but if the problem is more serious, it is better to begin treatment early.