Back to Document
Keep an Eye on Your Child's Vision
When it comes to vision, you are your child's first line of defense. You notice something, watch it for a while, and call the pediatrician or eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) to find out if what you're seeing is a problem.
That's how it should be, experts say. But many of America's kids do not even have a pediatrician.
About 20 percent of children have some type of visual problem. They can be far-sighted or near-sighted. They can have astigmatism, in which an irregularly shaped cornea (the eye's clear "front window") causes blurred images. And they can have a host of other problems, such as crossed eyes, lazy eye, even cataracts or glaucoma.
It's best to catch vision problems while a child is very young. Later, problems are harder to correct. Vision problems are often mistaken for learning disabilities once kids start school, too. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and The American Optometric Association recommend that an ophthalmologist or optometrist examine all infants by 6 months of age.
At first, infants' eyes are all over the place. They move around a lot, just like infants' arms and legs. At about 3 months, infants should be able to track you with their eyes in a room. At 6 months, babies have fairly normal vision. They have vision of about 20/40, which would pass the drivers' test.
Doctors suggest that you look to see whether your baby's eyes move together. And when you view photos of your baby, look for a red glow in the eyes. White or black is not normal, but don't go by one photograph—it's a problem only if it's in all photos of your baby.
More than one in fifty children have Amblyopia, and one in twenty preschool children have an eye problem that could lead to amblyopia (Prevent Blindness America 2005).
The good news is that amblyopia detected within the first six years of life is treatable.
The Eye See Kids Vision Screening Program seeks to eliminate amblyopia and provides free vision screenings to children by the time they start kindergarten.
Have your child's eyes checked
Every child should have a good vision screening prior to starting kindergarten. This screening can be performed by a pediatrician, trained volunteer, or an eye care professional (ophthalmologist or optometrist). Only an eye care professional can provide a complete eye exam, which is more complete and detailed compared to a vision screening. As part of our program, we offer free vision screenings by one of our network eye care professionals.
What is Amblyopia?
Commonly known as Lazy Eye, Amblyopia is the number one cause of blindness in children age 0-5 years. Amblyopia results as a misalignment of a child's eyes; as one eye becomes stronger, it will take over, and the weaker eye will often lose function. Amblyopia may be present in straight eyes as well and only a vision test will detect the problem. With early diagnosis and treatment, the weaker eye can regain its full function (Prevent Blindness America 2005).
Parents are often unfamiliar with or unaware of the warning signs of amblyopia, allowing the problem to go undiagnosed, resulting in blindness. As the child continues to age, the vision impairment becomes permanent and untreatable.
What are the signs of lazy eye?
Some children with eye problems may show no signs of eye trouble!
Many different problems can cause lazy eye. Here are some signs of eye trouble that could be related to lazy eye or other eye problems:
- Favoring one eye
- Tilting the head
- An eye drifts or wanders when the child is tired, sick or in bright light
- Your child tends to close one eye, especially in sunlight
- Rubbing the eyes
- Your child seems to blink too much
- Your child holds things close to his or her eyes
If you notice these or other signs of eye trouble, take your child to an eye doctor right away.
Vision impairments involve more than just eyesight
Vision impairments also hinder a child's ability to learn. Many times children are misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder when, in reality, they have poor visual processing.
According to Margaret Livingstone from the Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School and the Dyslexia Research Laboratory, poor visual processing plays a significant role in a large majority of children who struggle to read. Children who cannot see well due to a need for vision correction fail to pay attention and perform poorly in school (Children's Visual Information Network 2007). Without being able to see the board or read papers in front of them their ability to learn is hindered. Diagnosing visual impairments or processing problems early can help a child to be able to reach their full potential, rather than being misdiagnosed and treated for the wrong disability.
Bruce A. Miller, M.D.
Program Coordinator/Medical Director, Pediatric Ophthalmology Chris Evert Children's Hospital
220 SW 84 Avenue
Building 220, Suite 204
Plantation, FL 33324
Prevent Blindness Florida
Broward College Vision Care
Florida's Vision Quest