Detecting vision problems in children

WATE 6 On Your Side Staff - KNOXVILLE (WATE) - Having trouble reading the board in class or focusing on the words in a textbook might be the first time your child notices a vision problem. There are some warning signs that a child is struggling to see, even before they are old enough for school.

Dr. Kristin Farr with East Tennessee Children's Hospital says the most common vision problems in school age children are trouble seeing far away (nearsighted) or close up (farsighted.)

Preschool age children might develop amblyopia, sometimes called lazy eye, which is a development disorder caused by one eye not being able to see as well as the other. The brain sees two different pictures and chooses to only interpret the image sent by the strongest eye. The result is the weaker eye will not develop properly.

Babies may have misaligned eyes. Most babies' eyes occasionally look misaligned before four months of age, but after that point, inward crossing or outward drifting that occurs regularly is usually abnormal.

Eye exams by your child's pediatrician are important to identify problems early on so that there is a better chance of being treated successfully. The pediatrician will conduct routine eye exams during well visits, but it's also important to raise any concerns you may have as a parent if you've seen any signs your child is struggling to see.

You should let your child's doctor know if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • Eyes that are misaligned (look crossed, turn out, or don't focus together)
  • White or grayish white color in the pupil
  • Eyes that flutter quickly from side to side or up and down
  • Eye pain, itchiness, or discomfort reported by your child
  • Redness in either eye that doesn't go away in a few days
  • Pus or crust in either eye
  • Eyes that are always watery
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Eyes that often appear overly sensitive to light
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