Healthy eyes and clear vision are vital at any age, but for children, good vision is especially important. Children use their vision for an estimated 80 percent of learning done at school, from reading and writing to chalkboard and computer work, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA). Because of this, you'll want to make your child's vision a top health priority and see if they need glasses or contacts to correct any problems.
Symptoms of Eye and Vision Problems
The AOA has identified some symptoms as telltale signs of potential eye and vision problems in children:
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking.
- Short attention span.
- Avoiding reading and other close activities.
- Frequent headaches.
- Covering one eye.
- Tilting the head to one side.
- Holding reading materials close to their face.
- An eye turning in or out.
- Seeing double.
- Losing their place when reading.
- Difficulty remembering what they read.
If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to visit a pediatric eye doctor.
Types of Vision Problems for Children
According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS), children tend to develop any one or more of four basic types of refractive errors:
- Myopia. This is simply nearsightedness, the most common vision problem for children.
- Hyperopia. This condition is more commonly known as farsightedness.
- Astigmatism. This vision problem is the abnormal curvature of the eye, which can blur fine details.
- Anisometropia. This diagnosis means each eye has a different prescription, such as one normal eye and one eye requiring a corrective lens.
Sometimes these vision issues will be easy to identify, such as if your child complains about not being able to read the chalkboard from the back of the classroom. Others, however, may take testing to determine whether your child has vision issues and how severe they might be.
Identifying If Your Child Needs Glasses
To determine whether your child will need glasses, her eye doctor will perform a complete eye exam, including dilation. This type of exam is appropriate for children of any age, even toddlers and infants.
It's important to note the distinction between a proper eye exam and a vision screening. The latter may occur at your child's school or even through your pediatrician, and it's not the same as a comprehensive eye and vision exam from an eye specialist such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Vision screenings are limited and not used to diagnose an eye or vision problem; instead, they're meant to determine whether your child's vision needs any further evaluation by a specialist.
Be open with your child about her vision, and find out if she is having trouble seeing things at home or at school. Take her in for regular vision check-ups at least once every two years, or more frequently if she is experiencing any symptoms of vision problems.
How to Convince Your Child to Wear Glasses
If your eye doctor says that your child will need glasses, the hardest part may be convincing your child to wear them. Young children especially may not understand why they need glasses, especially if their vision isn't severely affected, and may feel stressed about their classmates' reactions. But it's your job, and the doctor's, to explain the benefits.
Try using motivators such as better performance at school or sports to convince them that wearing glasses is worth any discomfort they might feel. Also, let them choose their frames so they can feel more comfortable with the new accessory.
Vision problems are common for children, even young children, and it's important for parents to be vigilant in spotting any issues. The sooner you can help your child, especially if she might need glasses, the sooner she can have an easier time at school -- and with life in general.