With the 2017 school year in swing for much of the country, there’s no time like the present to determine if your child needs glasses to correct his vision. Contrary to popular belief, glasses aren’t only for fixing nearsightedness and farsightedness. In fact, they can be used to correct a variety of vision issues.
It’s not always easy to identify vision problems in young people. Some children don’t realize that their vision isn’t as clear as others and some children are simply too young to be able to tell their caregivers that they’re having problems. To help you recognize whether or not your child may need glasses, we’ve compiled a list of seven signs to look out for.
If your child squints her eyes when reading, writing, watching TV or using the computer, it may signify a vision problem. Squinting while looking at something close up indicates farsightedness (problems seeing objects close up) while squinting to see things far away may indicate nearsighted (problems seeing objects farther away).
- Frequent eye rubbing
A child may rub his eyes in an attempt to “clear” the blurriness in his vision.
- Frequent unexplained headaches or nausea
If your child seems to experience headaches and nausea with no apparent cause, it may be due to strain on her eyes from poor vision.
- Holding things close to the face
Holding books or handheld games close to the face or standing unusually close to the TV while watching can indicate nearsightedness. This means that your child can clearly see things that are up close but struggles to view details in things that are far away.
- Difficulty focusing on schoolwork
Vision problems are often initially misdiagnosed as ADHD. It’s hard for kids to concentrate on things they can’t see properly. If your child struggles in school, see his physician to rule out a vision problem before assuming a behavioral issue.
- Difficulty holding eye contact
Wandering eyes while listening or having a conversation can indicate that a child is having problems focusing her eyes in one direction.
- A hard time staying on track
If a child frequently loses his place while reading or needs to use his finger to keep track of his place in a book, this can be a sign of a vision problem.
Common Vision Problems in Children
While nearsightedness and farsightedness are the most familiar vision problems, there are a variety of possible eye issues that can be affecting a child. Although it’s likely that a caregiver will notice some kind of abnormality in their children’s eyes, it can be difficult to determine the actual cause.
If you notice anything unusual about your child’s vision, it’s best to take her to the eye doctor as soon as possible because early treatment is often critical. Many of these vision problems can be fixed with corrective lenses or eye drops, but some more serious cases may require surgery or other therapy methods.
- Amblyopia (lazy eye): Amblyopia is a condition that results from one eye not being able to focus as well as the other. If diagnosed around the time a child is in preschool, amblyopia is usually an easy fix. Doctors often prescribe glasses, contact lenses, eye drops or an eye patch to strengthen the weak eye. A child with amblyopia will often squint one eye or demonstrate poor depth perception.
- Strabismus (crossed eye): Strabismus is typically easy to identify as it’s the misalignment of the eyes due to muscle or nerve damage. When left untreated, strabismus can result in amblyopia.
- Astigmatism: People with astigmatism will find it difficult to see things up close and far away due to an uneven curvature in the eye’s lens or cornea.
- Cataract: A cataract is any type of cloudiness in the lens of the eye. This can cause a distortion in vision due to uneven light being passed through the eye. While cataracts are more common in older adults, they can occur in young children as well.
What’s the Difference Between an Optometrist, Optician and an Ophthalmologist?
Optometrists are not medical doctors, but they have received three or more years of undergraduate schooling and four years of optometry school, which makes them an OD (doctor of optometry). They are licensed to write prescriptions for lenses and medications, perform vision and eye exams, and identify abnormalities in the eye.
An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specializes in eye care. These doctors have received four years of undergraduate schooling and have spent at least eight years earning their medical degree. Ophthalmologists are licensed to diagnose eye problems, treat vision issues and perform surgery on abnormalities in the eye. They can also prescribe medications as well as corrective lenses.
Opticians are not licensed to treat or diagnose eye problems, but they are able to use prescriptions prescribed by optometrists or ophthalmologists to design and distribute corrective glasses or contact lenses.
Who Should You See?
According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, both ophthalmologists and optometrists can give routine eye exams. If you simply want your child to be tested to see if they need glasses, an optometrist will suffice. However, if you’re concerned that your child may have a more serious eye issue, you may want to see an ophthalmologist to make sure. If your child already has an underlying eye problem, it’s best to schedule routine checkups with an ophthalmologist. Starting the process earlier could get your kids the help they need while preventing serious problems later in life.