If you are a parent or grandparent, it’s important to be aware of eye issues that can impact children – from infancy to adolescence. Visual functioning is a strong predictor of academic performance in school-age children. Uncorrected vision problems in childhood can impact socialization, coordination, school performance, and sports/recreation activities. The longer a vision condition goes undiagnosed and untreated, the more a child’s brain learns to adjust to it, which may lead to permanent vision loss. Moreover, untreated eye disorders in childhood can impact health and well-being throughout adulthood. All such irregularities can easily be picked up in the eye test, which also checks for colour vision deficiencies.
The Role of Genetics
The vast majority of infants are born with healthy eyes, however, certain eye diseases have a genetic component. More than 60% of blindness in infants is linked to inherited eye disease. These include congenital cataracts and glaucoma, retinal degeneration, optic atrophy, and eye malformations. Other eye conditions partially tied to genetics include strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), and refraction errors such as myopia (shortsightedness), hyperopia (longsightedness), and astigmatism. Eye abnormalities can also be caused by other inherited diseases, for example, children with Tay-Sachs disease typically have a cherry-red spot on their eyes. Tay-Sachs symptoms usually develop around 3-6 months of age.
Signs of Eye Problems During Childhood
Infancy to Age 2
Occasionally, otherwise healthy babies develop eyes and vision problems. If you notice any of the following signs, schedule an eye appointment.
- Excessive tearing may indicate blocked tear ducts
Preschool Children: Ages 3 to 5
More than one in five preschool-age children enrolled in preschool have a vision disorder. At this age, children typically don’t complain about their eyes. If you notice any of the following signs, schedule an appointment.
School Children: Ages 6 to 18
It is estimated up to 80% of childhood learning is associated with the eyes. Undiagnosed eye problems can lead to headaches, fatigue, and other problems caused by eye strain. Vision can change frequently during school years, so regular eye exams are important. Parents and teachers should look for the following signs, which necessitate a visit to the eye doctor.
- Frequent eye rubbing or blinking
Common Childhood Eye Conditions
Amblyopia (lazy eye)
Strabismus (crossed eyes)