Proper vision is crucial for success in all aspects of your child’s life. Since the majority of children's learning during their early school years, from reading, writing to playing sports, requires good vision, many children experiencing vision problems often face multiple barriers in life, academically, socially and athletically. Vision problems in children can be hard to recognise, as often children don't know how they should see and often do not to realise or report any problems they may be experiencing with their vision. Therefore, it's up to you as the parent to be able to spot the warning signs of a vision problem, which include...
Squinting can be a sign of a focussing issue (astigmatism, hyperopia or myopia) so it should be checked. However sometimes it can just be a habit related phenomenon as can rolling the eyes or blinking frequently.
2. Head tilt or turn
If your child tilts his or her head when reading or watching TV, this can be a sign of strabismus (muscle imbalance in the eyes). To alleviate straining of the eye muscles, children often tilt or turn their head to help the eyes focus together. Tilting of the head when concentrating on an object can also be a sign of a refractive error.
3. Difficulty with concentration and short attention span
Children with farsightedness seem to quickly lose interest in games, books, puzzles or activities that require using their eyes for an extended period of time and may choose to avoid activities that require up-close focusing.
4. Absence of the normal ‘red eye’ on a photo
Sometimes this is just the angle at which the photo is taking but if the normal red eye is absent in one eye it can be a sign of an internal problem such as a cataract (which can occur in children) and it should be checked promptly.
5. Poor hand coordination or clumsiness
If a child has a muscle balance issue where the eyes are misaligned, this can lead to a decrease in depth perception. This visual problem can make it difficult to judge distances, causing the child to be unusually clumsy, i.e. running into furniture. It can also be a sign of poorer vision in one eye.
6. Rubbing the eyes
Eye rubbing can often be related to eye allergies or irritation and occasionally is indication of a muscle balance or focusing issue that can cause the eyes to fatigue and become tired easily.
7. Frequent headaches
Frequent headaches can be a sign of a focusing issue causing eye strain. Additionally, more uncommonly, headaches can also be a sign of pressure of swelling behind the child's eyes.
8. Sitting close to the TV or holding a book close to the face
These habits of sitting close to the tv or holding reading material close to the face may be a sign of a focusing problem, but usually isn’t. Children have much stronger focusing muscles than adults and can hold objects close quite comfortably. If there is any doubt then it is safer to have the eyes checked.
Eye Exams for Children
In New Zealand regular eye checks are part of the Well Child Tamariki Ora program so make sure you bring any concerns to your GP’s attention during these routine assessments. We are also fortunate to have universal vision screening for children between 4 and 5 years of age. If there are any issues with that test then a more thorough assessment is warranted with an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Book an Appointment
If your child is showing some of the signs of a vision problem, it is important that you take your child for a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible. The earlier the vision problem is picked up, the better the outcome.
To book an appointment with one of our pediatric ophthalmologists call 0800 23 53 93.