It's estimated about eighty percent of what children learn in school is taught visually. If your child has a vision problem and it goes undetected, it could severely affect his or her development. Here are some key warning signs you should keep an eye on. Also, remember that children should have an eye exam at six months, again at age three and then a yearly eye exam up to the age of nineteen.
1. Tilting the head or squinting to see better
Parents and teachers should be on the lookout for children who tilt or squint while trying to look at the board or something in the distance. This could be an indication that the child has hyperopia or commonly known as farsightedness.
2. Grades have declined
If your child is struggling in school, it could be an indication that they are having trouble with their vision. Children may not always tell you when they're having difficulty seeing what the teacher writes on the board, and as a result, their grades may suffer. Consider taking them to the Optometrist to get a comprehensive eye exam - glasses or contacts could be the answer!
3. Book or TV is too close
If your child is consistently sitting too close to the TV or they're holding a book up too close, it could be a sign of a vision problem. Difficulty seeing images clearly or leaning in close to read a book could mean your child has myopia otherwise known as near-sightedness.
4. Watching or reading with one eye closed
Closing one eye while your child reads or tries to work on a computer could be an indication that your child has convergence insufficiency, which is a refractive, or binocular vision problem that interferes with the ability for the two eyes to work together as a team.
5. Eyes hurt while using a computer
As our dependence on computers and other digital devices increases, digital eyestrain is becoming a common issue for those that frequently use electronic devices without taking a break. A good rule of thumb is to have your child take a break every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds while they are using a computer, phone or tablet. If your child still complains that they're experiencing discomfort take them to see an Optometrist.
6. Loses place often while reading
As a child starts learning how to read they usually use their fingers as a way to track the word they are trying to sound out. Eventually, they should be able to focus on the words and without losing their place.
If you notice your child is still using their finger while reading ask them to read out loud without pointing. If they are having difficulty with the task, they may have a vision problem.
7. Sensitivity to light and/or excessive tearing.
Children with extreme sensitivity to light otherwise known as photophobia can develop headaches and nausea. If you notice your child's eyes are tearing up and are particularly sensitive when a camera flash goes off, they’re in bright indoor lighting, or sunshine this may be a sign of a number of eye conditions.
8. Frequently rubbing eyes
It's true a tired or upset child will often rub their eyes, however, if your child is trying to concentrate on something or they're busy being active and they continue to rub their eyes; it could mean there's a vision problem.
A white circle appears in the pupil while taking a photograph using flash
If you take a photograph using flash and notice a white color in the centre of your child's eye or if they appear to be looking in different directions it could be Retinoblastoma the most common type of eye cancer in children. Retinoblastoma accounts for three percent of all cancers that occur in children under the age of fifteen. Early detection can help minimize the impact.
A comprehensive eye examination for children is essential for ensuring normal vision development; approximately five to ten percent of preschoolers and twenty-five percent of school-aged children have vision problems. Early identification of a child's vision problem can be crucial; children often are more responsive to treatment when problems are diagnosed early. The good news is Alberta Health covers annual eye exams for children from ages zero up to age eighteen.
At Crescent Heights Optometry you will find a caring team of professional Optometrists dedicated to providing quality eye care services for your whole family. If you're concerned about your child's vision or notice any of the key signs we listed don't wait to get your child in for an eye exam, schedule an appointment with us right away.