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Common Vision Problems in Young Children

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You may be surprised to know that 3% of all young children in the United States suffer from one or more types of vision problems according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Fortunately, most of these conditions can be detected early and treated through regular eye examinations. As an eye care professional it is important to remind your parent patients to schedule their child’s eye exam every year.

While certain types of vision problems are more common in others, most conditions are not limited by age and may even be present at birth. To provide further insight, we've outlined the most common types of vision problems experienced by children. 

Amblyopia Can Impact Child Eyes 

Amblyopia is most commonly known as lazy eye. It occurs when the neural connections between the eye and the brain are impaired. If your patient has amblyopia, these connections weren't developed correctly during the early stages of his/her life.

Amblyopia typically becomes present in children between the ages of six months to 72 months. While amblyopia usually only affects one of the eyes, it can sometimes spread to the stronger eye if it isn't treated quickly.

If the condition is left untreated, it’s likely to evolve in total vision loss in the impacted eye. For the most effective results, it’s extremely important to explain to parents to schedule their child for a vision screening. 

There are two main methods of treating amblyopia. The first is patching. This treatment occurs twice a day. The second treatment is by prescribing atropine drops to be applied daily.

Strabismus or Crossed Eyes

Strabismus, also known as a wandering eye, is a vision problem where both eyes are misaligned. They're often pointed in opposite directions or the same direction. This can make it difficult for children to perceive depth and develop critical visual skills. It may also create coordination and balance problems.

According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the condition impacts approximately 4% of children in the United States. While it commonly occurs in childhood, it can also occur later in life.

Strabismus is particularly common for children with disorders and conditions that affect the brain, such as:

  • Down syndrome
  • Brain tumors
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Prematurity

If strabismus is left untreated, it can lead to amblyopia in the eye that is misaligned. In this case, the brain focuses on the image presented by the straight eye while ignoring the image presented by the crossed eye. 

When the same eye is constantly ignored throughout childhood, the misaligned eye will fail to develop and could lose vision power. This condition is called strabismic amblyopia and tends to occur in about 50% of children with the strabismus condition.

Fortunately, as an eye care professional, there are multiple treatments that can be used to treat this condition, such as:

  1. Contact lenses or eyeglasses (for some patients these are the only treatments required). 
  2. Special lenses called “prism lenses.” These lenses change the manner in which light enters the eye and helps to minimize the amount of turning the eye has to do to view objects.
  3. Vision therapy to improve eye focusing and coordination. 
  4. Eye muscle surgery (this can alter the length or position of the eye muscles to make them appear straight). 

For the best results, it's imperative to have regular eye care for children as early as possible. 

Myopia Refractive Errors

Also called nearsightedness, myopia affects a wide range of children. Myopia is a refractive error in which light isn't filtered across the eye correctly. The result of any refractive error is blurry vision. In the case of myopia, it makes it difficult for children to see objects far away.

There are a few ways to treat myopia. If it's caught early, prescribing atropine eye drops may be able to help clear their vision. Otherwise, children can have their vision corrected through glasses, contacts, or even surgical procedures. 

Hyperopia Refractive Errors

One of the most common types of vision problems in children is hyperopia. It's estimated that 21% of children between the ages of six months and 6 years of age were reported to have hyperopia. That decreases to 13% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 years.

Hyperopia, also called farsightedness, refers to a condition in which the eye produces blurry vision on objects up close. Similar to myopia, hyperopia can be treated through the use of glasses, contact lenses, as well as surgical procedures. 

Astigmatism Can Cause Blurry Vision

As one of the most misunderstood types of vision problems in children, astigmatism makes everything blurry, whether up close or afar. In fact, astigmatism is the most common type of refractive vision problem in preschoolers. It can also occur with myopia. 

Astigmatism occurs because of an irregular curvature of the eye, which causes light to be improperly distributed to the retina. Although common for kids from 6 to 12 months, the factors that can increase the likelihood of infant astigmatism include:

  • Myopia
  • Family history
  • Hyperopia
  • Smoking during pregnancy

Questions? Contact Us Today!

For more than 100 years, Keeler has been a leader in the optometric/ophthalmic industry, offering cutting-edge diagnostic equipment and solutions. We offer a vast range of different ophthalmic and optometry supplies and equipment, including: 

We regularly partner with different high-tech ophthalmic solution providers, general medical instrument manufacturers, veterinary diagnostic specialists, and more to provide specialized OEM manufacturing.

About the Author Eugene VanArsdale

Eugene is the Director of Marketing Communications at Keeler Instruments. He has been with Keeler since 1982 and is co-holder of two patents for the company. Eugene has a true passion for the eye care industry and has dedicated himself to understanding the ins and outs of the optometric and ophthalmic equipment market.