Does Your Child Need Glasses?
Posted 8/15/2017 by UHBlog
When your child is holding a book three inches from his or her face in order to read it, it's a pretty good sign it's time for an eye exam. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, one in four children has vision problems.
But poor eyesight is not the only reason children need glasses, says pediatric ophthalmologist Adriana Grigorian, MD.
“Most often children need glasses to see better, but there are other reasons we prescribe glasses,” Dr. Grigorian says.
Sometimes, glasses help children’s eyes realign so they can avoid surgery.
“Other times, doctors might just want to protect a good eye, in case the other one is weak for various reasons,” she says.
But because children are not always able to communicate their vision problems (often because they don’t themselves realize there’s an issue), it’s important to keep a lookout for symptoms of eye problems in your child, says Dr. Grigorian.
The seven things to look for are:
- Squinting – When your child scrunches up his or her eyes when looking at a distant object or television screen, it’s often a sign of myopia (or nearsightedness), Dr. Grigorian says. With rates of nearsightedness on the rise globally – today 42 percent of people aged 12 to 54 have myopia – it’s important to have any signs of eye straining checked out.
And make sure the glow of the computer screen is not the only light your child is getting daily.
“Studies show that kids nowadays spend less time outdoors and more time inside with their computers and screens, which make the eyes more myopic – especially if there is a family history," she says. “Spending time outdoors helps the eyes develop normally and slows down the progression of myopia.”
- Abnormal head position – When your child tilts or turns his or her head to the side or covers one eye pirate-style trying to see something in the distance, it could be a sign of either decreased vision or eye misalignment. Glasses can help fix both problems.
- Frequent headaches – If your child is complaining frequently about pain behind the eyes or near the temples, it might not be because of an annoying sibling. Rather, it could be the result of blurry vision.
“You can get headaches if your eyes strain too much trying to focus,” Dr. Grigorian says.
- Crossed eyes – Eye misalignment – when one eye stays fixed on an object while the other eye turns inward, outward, up or down – is a relatively common problem in children. Sometimes misalignment is very noticeable. Other times, parents only observe it when their child is tired.
“When eyes are out of focus, it’s more difficult to keep them aligned,” she says.
- Declining school performance – Roughly 80 percent of all material presented in school is shown visually, experts say. If your child can’t see well, it’s hard for him or her to learn. Before hiring a tutor, you should call a pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Grigorian says. New glasses – not new study habits – might be just what the teacher ordered.
- Abnormal white or yellow eye reflections in photos – If your child is showing a luminescent white or yellow sheen over his or her pupils in pictures, it may not just be a problem with your camera’s flash. The abnormal reflection could be a symptom of several different eye disorders, including cataracts, retinal detachment and retinoblastoma, a rare but serious childhood eye cancer, says Dr. Grigorian.
Any time you notice an abnormal eye reflection in a photo, “an eye exam is warranted,” she says.
- Family history of glasses or eye misalignment at a young age – It turns out that kids do see the world through their parents’ eyes. Eye issues are often passed down genetically.
“If parents wear eye glasses, there’s a higher chance their kids will need them too,” Dr. Grigorian says. If you have a strong family history of vision problems, it’s important to schedule regular eye appointments for your child starting at age 1, she says.
While it’s important to be vigilant, sometimes you may not notice any symptoms at all and still your child may need glasses, Dr. Grigorian says.
“That happens when one eye is working perfectly but the other eye is weak,” she says.
These undetected eye issues can be detected during vision screenings at your child’s well visits, so it’s important to keep up to date with your pediatrician, Dr. Grigorian says.
Adriana Grigorian, MD, is a pediatric ophthalmologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. You can request an appointment with Dr. Grigorian or any other doctor online.