Many times we can’t identify if our children are having any visual issues on time and that results in low vision and a need to wear spectacles at a very young age. As parents, we surely want to avoid such conditions.
So, today, we analyze what causes the main vision problems in childhood and how to prevent, detect and treat them. This will provide you with a clear idea about how to tell if your child is having such issues.
What vision problems are most common in children?
Typical childhood eye pathologies, which affect around 5% of children, are:
Amblyopia: lazy eye with low vision due to lack of use.
Strabismus: ocular deviation.
Refractive errors or focusing problems such as:
Myopia: blurred distance vision.
Farsightedness: blurred near vision.
Astigmatism: blurred vision at distance and near.
What are the causes of these problems?
It is due to the lack of stimulation of the eye during the period of vision development (up to 8-10 years). This means that it is used less and less and becomes vague, without reaching its maximum visual potential.
The origin may be the presence of a strabismus, refractive error or other diseases such as eyelid ptosis (drooping of the eyelid, which covers the eye), childhood cataracts or retinal pathologies.
It is caused by an alteration in the control of eye movement so that the extraocular muscles responsible for this – guided by the brain – do not act in a coordinated manner.
Strabismus can be congenital (hereditary factor) or acquired and, although there are many possible causes, one of the most common in childhood is the association of a refractive defect. Other eye problems, as well as neurological ones, may also be behind it.
They appear when the light rays that enter the eye to form images do not focus right on the retina, but do so in front of it (myopia), behind it (hyperopia) or are dispersed (astigmatism).
These blurring problems can be explained by the dioptric power or “power” of the eye lenses – the cornea and the lens – and by the shape of the eyeball, larger, smaller or curved than normal (myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, respectively).
What symptoms do vision problems cause in childhood?
Many vision problems in childhood are asymptomatic. In fact, one of the peculiarities of amblyopia or lazy eye is that it often goes unnoticed: the child sees well with one of the two eyes and functions completely normally, so the problem is not identified until it is performed. an eye checkup.
Some types of intermittent strabismus are also difficult to detect – they appear especially when the child is tired or has a fever, sleepy… – and latent farsightedness, which, although compensated, can cause headaches, for example, when reading.
Likewise, rejection of reading and difficulties in school tasks (spelling, memorization, attention in class…), as well as socialization problems (withdrawn character, lack of relationship with other children…) can also be influenced by poor vision.
If a child regularly rubs his eyes, we must be attentive, as he may suffer from a vision problem.
What are the possible complications?
The main consequence of strabismus in childhood is amblyopia or lazy eye since in order not to see double due to ocular deviation, the brain suppresses the vision of one of the two eyes. The same happens with refractive errors since the image that reaches the brain is not sharp and chooses only that of the eye with better vision.
Therefore, it is essential to diagnose and treat lazy eye early (the sooner, the more effective), since vision that does not develop in childhood cannot be recovered in adulthood. Therefore, to prevent visual loss from becoming chronic, it is in the first years of life that the child must achieve 100% vision.
How are vision problems in childhood treated?
There are different treatment options:
Glasses: they are the most common way to correct myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism in children. They are also used to treat amblyopia or lazy eye and strabismus when caused by a refractive error.
Patch: used to cover the healthy eye and, in this way, force the lazy eye to work. The duration of use of the patch varies depending on age and the degree of amblyopia.
Surgery: some types of strabismus require surgery. The intervention does not require entering the eye, since it consists of strengthening or weakening the muscles that surround it and that are responsible for ocular deviation.
Visual therapy: combines office sessions and exercises prescribed at home to enhance certain visual skills (focus, binocular vision, ocular motility, visual perception…) and, thereby, help treat some cases of lazy eye or strabismus, among others.
How can they be prevented?
Providing an early solution to strabismus and refractive errors is important to prevent the evolution of amblyopia. Therefore, the key to preventing vision problems in childhood is to carry out periodic eye checkups (annually from the age of 3), even if the child does not have symptoms.
Only in this way is it possible to guarantee early detection of any anomaly and, therefore, a simpler and more effective treatment, which avoids major consequences for vision and child development.
10 Tips to prevent and improve vision problems in children
1. Observe their behaviour
He does not like reading. Gets bad grades? Does it stay in a corner of the patio? Do you adopt inappropriate postures? Do you complain that your head hurts often? Pay attention to these aspects that are not always related to eye health and that, however, can hide vision problems.
2. At 3 years old, take your child to the ophthalmologist
Regardless of whether or not you see this type of behaviour in your child, 3 years old is a key age to diagnose lazy eye and increase its chances of cure, in addition to assessing the presence of strabismus and refractive errors.
Don’t worry about your child being too young to collaborate; The specialists from JLR Eye Hospital will perform an examination appropriate to his age to obtain the necessary information.
3. Annual reviews
You can take advantage of the beginning of each new school year as a good time to carry out the annual eye check-up and, in this way, ensure that vision problems are not hidden and do not interfere with school performance.
4. Be consistent
In addition to following the check-up schedule, it is important to comply with the treatment guidelines indicated by the ophthalmologist and convey to the child the importance of not forgetting the glasses, using the patch for the necessary hours, and doing vision therapy exercises every day… Otherwise, they will be less effective and, in vision problems in childhood, remember that it is key not to waste time.
5. Make sure it is outdoors
It is recommended to encourage outdoor activities and sports to compensate for excess close vision. Nowadays the use of screens is continuous – also among the little ones – which adds to the hours they spend studying, doing homework…
As a consequence, the eyes spend a lot of time focusing on short distances. This causes visual fatigue and, among other factors, contributes to myopia appearing at increasingly younger ages.
6. Do not delay surgery if it is necessary
It is normal that seeing your child enter the operating room makes you worried, but strabismus can be treated from a very early age with great safety and effectiveness.
Put yourself in the hands of a trusted professional and don’t necessarily wait for the child to get older. You will see how correcting ocular deviation will favour his visual development, in addition to aesthetic improvement and the psychosocial factor.