Does Your Child Need Glasses?
As a parent, you’ve got a million things on your mind as your children grow – milestones, growth and development, healthy lifestyles. But in all the fuss, have you thought about your child’s visual health? Even the most proactive parents often overlook vision – especially if their child is still an infant or toddler.
The result? Around 10 million children started school this year with undiagnosed vision difficulties. Give your children the right start by making sure that their vision is 20/20 – with or without glasses.
Test Early and Regularly
Make vision exams part of your child’s annual health routine. Start early, when your baby is between 6 and 12 months old, even if you have no immediate worries about your child’s visual health. The first exam will establish a baseline that will be useful to measure any possible visual changes. After that, even for children who display no vision problems, include eye exams in your list of annual visits along with going to your pediatrician and dentist (check teeth every six months, please!). For children who do have visual issues, you may need to test more frequently.
Consider going to a pediatric ophthalmologist for your exam. They specialize in assessing even the youngest infants and will be able to do a much more thorough exam because of their extra training.
What Do They See?
Don’t feel guilty if you didn’t catch your child’s poor eyesight right away. Diagnosing a child with vision problems isn’t a clear-cut matter – especially if your child is very young and unable to report any problems they’re having. Some children, indeed, who are born with poor eyesight don’t always realize that something is wrong – after all, that’s the only way they have ever seen the world!
Signs Your Child Might Need Glasses
If you’re concerned that your child might need glasses, keep an eye out (no pun intended) for these common signs and symptoms:
- Squinting. If you observe your child squinting on a regular basis, especially when trying to read or look for something, it’s definitely time for a vision exam.
- Eye Rubbing. Children with poor eyesight can often have blurred vision – and they will often instinctively rub their eyes in an attempt to improve the problem. Eye rubbing can also be a sign that the eyes are strained and irritated and can frequently be accompanied by symptoms like red or watery eyes.
- Covering or Shutting One Eye. If your child often shuts one eye or covers it up, they might have astigmatism – the abnormal curving of the cornea which can affect vision and definitely warrants a trip to the eye doctor.
- Reading Trouble. If your child appears to be having trouble reading (either at home or at school), frequently loses their place in a book, holds the book too close to their face or uses their finger to mark their place in a book as they read, this is a strong indication that vision problems might be the culprit.
- Academic Underperformance. If your child is bright and pays attention to the teacher but is still underperforming in class, vision problems could be affecting their ability to see, focus, and concentrate. Many parents are surprised when their child’s grades suddenly shoot up after getting glasses – school is much easier when you can see your book and the chalkboard!
- Clumsiness. If your child frequently trips over things or runs into objects, their clumsiness could be a sign that your child simply can’t see well enough to navigate their world.
- Problems with Eye Movement. If your child has a problem following moving objects with their eyes alone, or if you observe abnormal or involuntary movements of the eyes after six months of age, this can also indicate vision problems.
- Frequent Headaches. Does your child frequently complain of headaches? They could be suffering from chronic eye strain. Frequent headaches are always important to investigate and there may be other, more serious underlying medical conditions.
The Eyeglass Myth
You may have heard that glasses actually make some problems like nearsightedness worse and that you shouldn’t give your child glasses at an early age. This is a myth.
For instance, nearsightedness is usually diagnosed at around 8 to 9 years of age (earlier in more serious cases) and continues to get worse, even with corrective lenses, until the end of early adolescence. By mid-adolescence, it will begin to taper off. The belief that the lenses are causing the near-sightedness is false: It’s simply the natural course this condition follows.
Do you suspect that your child needs glasses? If so, what signs or symptoms are you seeing?