Caring for young eyes

In their early years, vision helps them to find out about the world around them, about their home, and about you. Later, as they go through school, their vision helps them to learn and discover – in fact, about 80% of what is taught in schools is presented visually. So making sure they’re seeing clearly is incredibly important for their overall development.

Most very young children have their vision assessed as part of their routine developmental checks. While these are very important, they aren’t as thorough as a complete eye exam by a qualified optometrist. They might recommend that your child have their first eye exam when they're around six months old.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) estimates that one out of every four children has eye-related problems or conditions. If untreated, these could lead to serious effects on their development, performance, health, and learning.

A visit to the optometrist before your child goes into full-time education means that any potential issues are identified early, setting them up for a happy and fulfilling school life. 

Poor vision can lead to learning and behavioural problems, which might be blamed on other things. This is especially true for young children, who might not be aware of any difficulties they’re having or find it hard to explain.

Conditions such as squint and amblyopia (lazy eye) respond much better to treatment if they’re picked up earlier, especially before the age of five. And can make a big difference to your child.

Common children's eye conditions

Squint

What is a squint?

A squint is a condition that commonly affects children during development. It’s caused by an issue with the way the eye muscles work together, which can result in an eye that turns inwards or outwards, blurred vision, reduced vision in the affected eye, or a combination of all of these.

How common is it?

Around 1 in 20 children have a squint and it usually appears before the age of five. We assess for squints during a children’s eye exam.

How is it treated?

Squints can be treated with glasses, eye exercises or sometimes referral on to an ophthalmologist for further assessment.

Astigmatism

What is astigmatism?

Astigmatism is an eye condition that causes blurred or distorted vision. It happens when the shape or the cornea and/or lens is shaped differently.

How common is it?

It’s very common. Many people have some degree of astigmatism, sometimes in combination with near or far-sightedness.

How is it treated?

In most cases astigmatism is easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Without this, astigmatism can cause headaches, eye strain and tiredness, particularly after doing tasks that involve focusing on something for long periods, such as reading or using a computer.

Myopia or nearsightedness

What is myopia?

Also known as nearsightedness, people with myopia experience blurry vision in the distance, but often have relatively clear vision up close.

How common is it?

About one in three people are nearsighted. Myopia can develop as early as 1-2 years old, but it tends to start and progress as children enter their teenage years.

How is it treated?

In children, myopia is easily corrected with glasses.

Amblyopia or lazy eye

What is amblyopia?

Also known as lazy eye, if your child is diagnosed with an amblyopia, it usually means that one of their eyes is weaker than the other, causing them to rely more on their stronger eye.

How common is it?

Around 1 in 50 children develop an amblyopic or lazy eye and it’s usually detected during a routine screening or at their first eye exam.

How is it treated?

Glasses are often prescribed to improve vision in both eyes and, where possible, balance the clarity of vision in each eye. If vision in the weaker eye doesn’t improve with glasses, then sometimes patching therapy will be recommended by the optometrist. This is designed to strengthen the weaker eye over time and can sometimes be coupled with other vision training exercises. This kind of treatment can be very effective, particularly if it’s started early.

Hyperopia or farsightedness

What is hyperopia?

Also known as farsightedness, children who are farsighted may struggle with near vision more than distance vision, although depending on the degree of far-sightedness, both distance and near vision may be blurry. A particular symptom of far-sightedness is tiredness or blurriness when reading.

How common is it?

At birth, almost everyone is mildly far-sighted. Vision normally improves within the first 12 months of life, but for some children this doesn’t happen and far-sightedness can progress from an early age.

How is it treated?

Management can depend on the degree of far-sightedness and any related symptoms. Sometimes young children are monitored closely before glasses are prescribed, but if there is a significant degree of far-sightedness, glasses will help them to see clearly.

Noticed a change in your eyesight?

If you have any concerns about your eye health, contact or visit your local optometrist immediately – even if you do not have an appointment.

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