Does My Child Need Glasses?

Does your child sit too close to the computer screen? Does he/she squint when reading a book? Can he/she see things that are close up but has trouble when they are far away, or vice versa? Any of these signs might mean that your child needs glasses.

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

Have your child’s eyesight checked by a vision specialist

The only way to know for sure if your child needs corrective lenses is to have his/her eyesight examined, first by your pediatrician, and then if an issue is suspected, by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor). It’s important to know that when vision problems are found early, they have a much better chance of being treated successfully.

Signs that your child needs glasses

The following signs indicate that your child may have vision problems and needs glasses, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine:

  • Squinting. Squinting may be a sign that your child has a refractive error (how well the eyes focus on an image). By squinting, your child is able to temporarily improve the focus and clarity of an object.
  • Tilting head or covering one eye. Your child might cover one eye or tilt his/her head to change the angle of vision so that objects can be seen more clearly. This might be an indication that the eyes are misaligned or that your child has amblyopia (lazy eye), one of the most common eye disorders in children.
  • Sitting too close to the TV or computer screen or holding hand-held devices too close to the eyes. Sitting too close to the television, holding hand-held devices too close to the eyes or lowering the head while reading are all possible signs of poor vision. People who have myopia (nearsightedness) can see things clearly at close range but not at a distance. Bringing an object closer makes the image bigger and clearer.
  • Rubbing eyes excessively. Excessive eye rubbing may signal that your child is experiencing eye fatigue or eye strain. This could be a sign of a number of vision problems and conditions, including allergic conjunctivitis.
  • Complaining of headaches or eye pain. If your child complains about eye pain or headaches at the end of the day, he/she may be overworking the eyes in an effort to increase focus of blurred vision.
  • Having difficulty concentrating on school work. In school, children need to quickly change their visual focus from far to near and from chalkboards and computers to textbooks and tablets. If a child has difficulty making these visual adaptations, it can be misevaluated as a lack of focus on schoolwork or poor attention span.

Negative effects of vision problems going untreated

Since approximately 80% of what children learn in school is taught visually, if your child has an uncorrected vision problem, it could greatly affect his/her mental, emotional and academic development. In addition, children with undetected vision problems are sometimes mis-diagnosed with learning disabilities, such as ADHD, dyslexia or reading comprehension deficit. While many schools conduct basic eye screenings, they are not a substitute for a thorough eye exam by a vision specialist.

At what ages you should get your child’s eyes checked

​​Vision screening is a very important way to identify vision problems in your child. During a typical eye exam, a vision specialist checks to see if the eyes are functioning properly and looks for eye disease.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children have their eyes checked by a pediatrician at the following ages:

  • All babies should have their eyes checked for infections, defects, cataracts or glaucoma before leaving the hospital.
  • By 6 months of age: As part of each well-baby visit, the health of the eyes, vision development and alignment of the eyes should be checked by your child’s pediatrician.
  • 1-2 years: Special screening techniques enable your child’s pediatrician to be able to detect potential eye problems.
  • 3-4 years: Your child’s eyes and vision should be checked for any abnormalities that may cause problems with later development.
  • 5 years and older: Your child’s vision in each eye should be checked every year. If a problem is detected, the pediatrician may refer your child to a pediatric ophthalmologist.

One factor that can affect eye health? The sun.

According to fatherly.com, sun exposure damage that happens in childhood can cause vision problems later in life, which is why parents should make sure their children wear sunglasses when exposed to bright sunlight. “If you put sunglasses on your face, you need to put sunglasses on your kid’s face too,” says the article.

Read our other pediatric blogs

We’ve written a number of informative blogs about a wide variety of issues and conditions affecting children, which you can read here.

Concerned that your child might have a vision problem? Please come see us.

If you’re noticing signs that indicate your child might need glasses or some other vision correction, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment to see one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. We’ll examine your child, check his/her vision, and if needed, make a referral to a vision specialist. Most of all, we want your child to be healthy and successful in school and in life. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

By Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, Lead Pediatric Physician with Westchester Health, member of Northwell Health Physician Partners

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