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Signs Your Child has Poor Vision

By: Geoff Davis - Updated: 5 Jan 2017 | comments*Discuss
Eye Care Sight Optometrist

If there is anything wrong with your child’s vision, you, rather than your child, will probably be the first to be aware of it. Children have no experience of how they should see things, so they assume that they see things in the same way as everyone else does.

Although your child may not show signs of vision problems at first, it’s important to be vigilant. As your child grows, there are quite a few signs you can look out for that may indicate visual problems. If you are alerted by any of these signs you should have your child examined by an optical professional (an ophthalmologist or an optometrist) as soon as possible.

Early Eye Development

Your baby’s eyes will usually be examined at birth. This first examination for physical defects is very important, as the earlier that problems are identified, the greater the chances of successful treatment will be.

In the first six to eight months your baby will only be aware of shapes and objects will probably be blurred. Up to this age, each side of the body is developing alternately so, in the same way that you may notice the movements of hand and feet on just one side, one eye may turn towards the nose, indicating that only the other eye is being used. A few days or weeks later the situation will be reversed. This is normal.

At 12 months, your child will have become more mobile and inquisitive and able to judge distances and the relative size of objects. In two to three years the child will be talking and getting involved in activities such as drawing and painting. At this stage your child should be given a thorough professional eye examination, in which tests will be carried out for short- or long-sightedness and any evidence of a squint (crossed eyes).

What to Look Out for

The most common visual problems in children and, indeed, adults result from long- or short-sightedness or astigmatism. Any of these conditions leads to focussing difficulties – well known problems that teachers and parents usually look out for.

Long-sightedness makes it difficult to focus on near objects, whereas short-sighted people can read quite easily but have difficulty with distant objects. Astigmatism causes objects to appear distorted and out of focus.

There are quite a number of other potential problems that can affect your child’s vision and, although not an exhaustive list, these are some of the indicators that you should look out for:

The Appearance of the Eye

  • Misalignment of the eyes. One eye turns in either direction while the other points straight ahead.
  • Jerky eye movements
  • Frequent blinking
  • Frequent watering
  • Slow or unequal dilation or constriction of the pupils
  • Squinting
  • White pupil
  • Redness

Some Behavioural Symptoms

  • Inability to recognise distant people or objects
  • Tilting of the head when looking at something
  • Over-sensitivity to light
  • Covering of one eye while reading
  • Sitting very close to the TV
  • Screwing up eyes while watching TV
  • Complaining of blurred vision or of seeing double
  • Complaining of headaches
  • When reading, the child holds the book very close, or loses the place very often.
  • Poor concentration
  • Avoiding reading
  • Mixing up words or letters in text
  • Poor hand-to-eye coordination
  • Rubbing the eyes
  • Crooked and inconsistent writing
Keep in mind the importance of early diagnosis for effective treatment. Also, not all of these problems can be identified during a quick screening by school medical staff. The milestones for your child’s eye examinations should be:
  • Before the age of three
  • Before starting school
  • At intervals during schooling, as advised by the optician
Following these guidelines will ensure the best possible preventive and, where necessary, corrective measures to protect your child’s precious eyesight.

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