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Children's Eye Health 
Look for these warning signs of poor vision in your child:
    · Squinting, closing or covering one eye
    · Holding a book close
    · Losing his or her place while reading
    · Headache, nausea or dizziness
    · Excessive clumsiness
    · Tilting head to one side
    · Frequent daydreaming
    · Using a finger as a place-mark while reading
    · Performing below potential
    · Rubbing eyes repeatedly

If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure your child sees an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye examination. Keep in mind that not all problems can be diagnosed by you or a school nurse; only an eye doctor has the training and equipment to catch everything.

Among the children's health issues that parents are most concerned with, eyes and vision rank near the top. That's especially true because vision is very important to the development and education of a child. And parents must be extra-vigilant because a child may not realize that his vision is not normal. If it's what he always knew, then naturally it will seem normal to him. It's up to the attentive parent to notice the signs of a vision problem and follow up with a visit to the eye doctor for a children's eye exam.

As your child grows and develops so will their vision. Your baby's eyes will be checked at birth and during well-baby visits throughout the first year. All babies should receive a infant's eye exam. Babies usually see movement before anything else. Full-term babies should be able to see their mother's facial expression within a week of birth. Color vision and depth perception aren't yet fully developed and eye muscle coordination is also very immature. Babies often have eyes that are turned in, turned out or not working as a team, a condition known as strabismus. If this problem doesn't resolve itself by the age of three or four months, consult an eye doctor.


From ages 3 to 6, your child will be fine-tuning the vision already developed during the infant and toddler years. Older preschoolers are learning how to use sports equipment and working on the fine motor skills needed to write their names. Watch for the warning signs of visual problems, such as sitting too close to the TV or holding a book too close, squinting, head tilting, eye rubbing and sensitivity to light. Farsightedness and strabismus are common problems with this age group. However, some problems might not have a sign; only an eye doctor can tell.

If your child exhibits no symptoms of a visual problem, he should have a children's eye exam by the age of 3. Having a complete children's eye exam even before the child enters school allows enough time to catch and correct any problems while the visual system is still flexible.

If your pre-schooler needs glasses, make sure your child understands why. Explain that he/she needs glasses to see clearly, and give specific examples of the benefits, such as that he'll be able to see the words in his books better or will be able to play catch with his brother because he can now see the ball.

School days

School-age children should receive a children's eye exam before entering kindergarten and regularly after that if they have no visual problems. If your child requires glasses or contact lenses for refractive errors, schedule visits every 12 months.

A vision screening performed by your pediatrician or the school nurse is not a complete eye exam. These vision screenings are designed to alert parents to the possibility of a visual problem and do not take the place of a visit to the eye doctor. Studies even show that these vision screenings may miss sight-threatening eye conditions.

If a visual dysfunction is part of your child's learning difficulty, special lenses or vision therapy may help. Should your child's visual function not be an issue, ask your eye care practitioner for referrals to the appropriate specialists. Visit your family doctor or pediatrician as well for more information on diagnosing your child.


An eye condition, commonly missed with a vision screening, is ambloypia. Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, is a vision problem that affects just two to three percent of the population, but if left uncorrected, it can have a very big impact on their lives. Central vision does not develop properly, usually in one eye, which is called amblyopic.

Untreated amblyopia may lead to functional blindness in the affected eye. Although the amblyopic eye has the capability to see, the brain "turns off" this eye because vision is very blurred. The brain elects to see only with the stronger eye.

Amblyopia generally develops in young children, before age six. Symptoms of amblyopia are often noted by parents, caregivers or health-care professionals. If a child squints or completely closes one eye to see, he or she may have amblyopia. Other signs of amblyopia include overall poor visual acuity, eyestrain and headaches.

Children with amblyopia can be treated with patching one eye, atropine eye drops, the correct prescription for nearsightedness or farsightedness, or surgery.

If you notice any vision problems with your child, make sure he or she sees an eye doctor for a comprehensive children's eye exam. Keep in mind that not all problems can be diagnosed by you or a school nurse; only an eye doctor has the training and equipment to catch everything.

Optometrist Dr. Phillip Liggins offers advice on preventing potential eye problems.

Kids will be kids...

Most childhood accidents occur at home, many with toys. Children spend a great deal of time playing with their toys, so you need to make sure those toys are safe for eyes. Avoid toys that shoot objects in the air, such as slingshots, dart guns or arrows, for children under 6, and closely supervise any child playing with such toys. If your older child plays with a chemistry set or woodworking tools, give him or her safety goggles.

Sports-related eye injuries are topping 100,000 per year, and almost all are preventable by protective eyewear. Children are especially vulnerable to an eye injury because they don't know that their vision, and possibly a lifetime of healthy vision, is at stake. For children, eye injuries happen mainly while playing. They should wear eye protection for any sports and recreational activities that uses a projectile or racket, involves rough contact with other players, or requires travel at high speed. Ask your eye doctor about the best eye protection for your child.

Undetected vision problems can lead to difficulties in school

According to research published in the Journal of Behavioral Optometry by Roger Johnson, Ph.D. of Old Dominion University and Joel Zaba, M.A., O.D, there is a significant relationship between undetected vision problems and reading, learning and behavioral difficulties.

About 80% of learning in a child's first 12 years comes through the eyes. Some children are labeled "learning disabled" or "trouble-makers," when all they need is an eye exam and appropriate vision correction. Good vision is fundamental to reading; it is vital to seeing such learning tools as the chalkboard, visual aids and videos. In short, good vision is as essential to learning as the ABC's.

Unlike a comprehensive exam, a simple vision screening — a distance vision test using a Snellen chart — only identifies 5% of vision problems in children, according to the American Foundation for Vision Awareness. While these vision screenings are useful for offering an early indication of problems relating to distance eyesight, they miss other critical vision deficiencies that can impact a child's eye health, development and school and learning performance.

However, a comprehensive eye exam measures a number of visual skills that are critical to a child's healthy vision, such as using both eyes as a team, the ability of the eyes to focus properly when reading a book, or viewing a computer, and the ability of the eyes to move properly when reading across a page of print.

"Making a child's first test a vision test will prepare children to enter school ready to gain the knowledge and skills that will remain with them their entire lives," said Dr. Zaba. "How well a child can see will have a great impact on how much and/or how quickly they will learn.To ensure the best vision conditions for your children, ask yourself:

  • Is there proper lighting?
  • Do my children with eyeglasses actually wear them?
  • When your kids are at the computer, are they sitting 24-28" from the monitor? (By sitting closer than 20", they risk eye strain.)

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