A child’s eyesight does not fully develop until the age of nine. If a problem is noticed early – it’s easier to treat; if a condition like amblyopia or lazy eye (which can lead to permanent vision loss) is diagnosed early enough, the better the chances of successful treatment and complete recovery.
Some common vision problems
Around 25 per cent of school-age children have some sort of vision problem. Many vision problems are associated with refractive errors (need for glasses) these are long or short sightedness, and astigmatism, which occurs when the cornea is shaped more like a rugby ball than a football. A difference in refractive power between the eyes can often cause a lazy eye, which may go undetected by parents. Problems such as strabismus or squint, are not uncommon either. If caught early on, this can be treated with glasses or patches and eye drops to make the weak eye focus and strengthen the eye muscle. Eye muscle therapy can be used in some cases. Cataracts are caused by opacity on the lens and although rare in children are typically treated with surgery.
How early should my child’s eyesight be tested?
Early vision screening is very important. Your child’s vision should be tested by the age of three or four. Most pediatricians usually test children’s eyesight as part of a routine exam. If your paediatrician doesn’t, be sure to ask them. Nursery schools should also check your child’s eyesight, and notify parents if they suspect anything.
What are the signs to look out for?
The most common symptom of an eyesight problem is when your child’s eyes are not straight or do not focus properly. Kids tend to sit close to the TV or hold objects and books close to their faces during activities and reading but if your child is abnormally close to something, check the eyes. ‘Lazy eye’, when the good eye works overtime to compensate for the lack of vision or movement in the other, is quite common. Children benefit from early screening and detection to prevent permanent damage and parents usually have a feeling when something is not right, and it is always best to trust your instincts.