KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Having trouble reading the board in class or focusing on the words in a textbook or online might be the first time your child notices a vision problem.

However, there are some warning signs a child is struggling to see even before they are old enough for school. East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Dr. Katy Stordahl shares some tips to identify vision issues.

Common vision problems in children

  • School-age children can have trouble seeing far away (nearsighted) or close-up (farsighted).
  • Preschool-age children can experience amblyopia, sometimes called lazy eye. Amblyopia is a developmental disorder caused by one eye not being able to see as well as the other. The brain sees two different pictures and chooses to interpret only the image sent by the stronger eye. The result is that the eye that isn’t seeing well will not develop properly.
  • Babies can have misaligned eyes. Most babies eyes occasionally look misaligned before 4 months of age. However, after 4 months, inward crossing or outward drifting that occurs regularly is usually abnormal.

Importance of vision screenings 

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.

Warning signs of vision problems

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

What about eye strain?

Too much time on a screen can cause eye fatigue and headaches. It’s important for parents to monitor screen time outside of school work and limit it during off times. Children need to take frequent breaks. Positioning the screen slightly below eye level can help. There is no evidence that the blue light from screens is harmful to the eyes, but it can make it tougher to sleep so turning screens off at least an hour before bedtime can help.

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