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October 10, 2022

The 13 Most Common Pediatric Eye Problems

If your child is experiencing vision issues, you’re not alone. 1 in 4 school-aged children have a vision disorder.

For children, 80% of learning is visual. Vision problems are often misdiagnosed as learning disabilities, which is why it’s extra important to schedule routine eye exams for kids. Your child’s development depends on it!

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1. Nearsightedness

Symptoms of Nearsightedness:

  • Squinting
  • Inability to see the TV or chalkboard
  • Eye strain and headaches

Nearsightedness, or Myopia, is the inability to see objects that are far away. It often begins between the ages of 6 and 14 and affects an estimated 30% of adolescents. Myopia tends to worsen during adolescence and then stabilizes in a person’s early twenties. Myopia cannot be reversed but it can be treated using glasses and contact lenses.

2. Farsightedness

Symptoms of Farsightedness:

  • Squinting
  • Nearby objects appear blurry
  • Headaches after reading or doing other up-close activities

Farsightedness (Hyperopia), as the name suggests, is the opposite of nearsightedness. It’s the inability to see objects up close. Hyperopia affects 1 in 7 children, but often goes away on its own as a child reaches adulthood. If problems persist, glasses or contacts can help treat the problem.

3. Astigmatism

Symptoms of Astigmatism:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Squinting
  • Eyestrain and headaches

Astigmatism occurs when imperfections in the curvature of the eye cause blurred vision. It’s very common among children. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 23% of children aged 6 months to a year have astigmatism. Luckily, most children outgrow it. The percentage of Astigmatism drops to 9% in 5-6-year-olds. Astigmatism is a risk factor for Amblyopia.

4. Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Symptoms of Amblyopia:

  • An eye that visibly wanders
  • Poor depth perception
  • Squinting
  • Head tilting
  • Abnormal results from a vision test

Amblyopia is a type of vision impairment that happens in just one eye. It develops when there’s a breakdown in the brain’s ability to process the information it’s receiving from one eye. When this occurs, the brain begins to rely more and more on the other eye, causing that eye to strengthen while the other weakens.

Amblyopia is a type of vision impairment that happens in just one eye. It develops when there’s a breakdown in the brain’s ability to process the information it’s receiving from one eye. When this occurs, the brain begins to rely more and more on the other eye, causing that eye to strengthen while the other weakens.

5. Chalazion

Symptoms of Chalazion:

  • Painless bump on the eyelid
  • Eye watering
  • Blurred vision

A Chalazion is a gradual, painless lump that forms in the eyelid due to the swelling of a blocked oil gland. If it becomes infected, it can cause major swelling and pain. Small Chalazions can go away without treatment in a matter of months, but larger ones may require treatment. Your eye doctor might prescribe antibiotic eye drops or warm, moist compressions.

6. Strabismus

Symptoms of Strabismus:

  • Eyes that don’t look in the same direction
  • Squinting or closing one eye
  • Poor depth perception
  • Tilting their head

Strabismus is a vision disorder where the eyes become misaligned and begin to point in different directions. This is a relatively common problem, affecting between 2 and 4 percent of the population.

Strabismus is treated depending on the severity. Your child’s eye doctor might prescribe glasses or an eye patch to correct the problem. In extreme cases, eye muscle surgery might be needed.

7. Binocular Vision Dysfunction

Symptoms of Binocular Vision Dysfunction:

  • Blurred vision
  • Eye strain/pain
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty driving
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Feeling off-balance
  • Difficulty reading

Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD) is essentially the same thing as Strabismus, the difference being that BVD is much more subtle. Strabismus is visible to the naked eye, while BVD is usually diagnosed from its symptoms.

8. Convergence Insufficiency

Symptoms of Convergence Insufficiency:

  • Tired or sore eyes
  • Double or blurry vision
  • Eyestrain and headaches
  • Squinting
  • Rubbing eyes

When trying to focus on an object in front of us, our eyes converge or point inward. Difficulty with this task is called convergence insufficiency. It affects 1 in 8 children or approximately 13 percent of all school-aged kids.

Convergence insufficiency is often treated by eye exercises, special glasses, and in extreme cases, surgery.

9. Nystagmus

Symptoms of Nystagmus:

  • Uncontrolled eye movement
  • Blurred vision
  • Head tilting
  • Focusing issues
  • Balance issues

Nystagmus is the medical term for involuntary eye movements. It’s relatively rare, affecting about 1 in every 1,000 people. There are two types of nystagmus, congenital and acquired. Congenital usually starts in infants between 6 weeks and 3 months. Acquired Nystagmus happens later in life, usually caused by serious medical issues or drug and alcohol use. People born with Nystagmus cannot be cured of the condition, but glasses or contact lenses can help clear their vision, thus slowing their rapid eye movements.

10. Epiphora

Symptoms of Epiphora:

  • Redness in the eye
  • Enlarged blood vessels
  • Painful, swollen eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity

Epiphora is an excessive tearing disorder that affects between 6 and 20 percent of newborn infants. If your child’s tear ducts are too narrow or not fully developed, tears can build up in their eyes, causing sticky eyes that risk becoming infected. Luckily, 96 percent of cases will resolve with simple remedies like antibiotics and massage.

11. Pediatric Cataract

Symptoms of Pediatric Cataract:

  • White, clouded pupils
  • Misaligned eyes
  • Uncontrolled eye movements
  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing a glare or halo around lights

Yes, even children can develop cataracts. Thankfully, they’re rare, occurring in just 3-4 per every 10,000 live births per year. Cataracts occur when there’s a clouding in the retina that distorts the image the brain receives from the eye. This is a serious condition that generally requires surgery, plus a lifetime of ongoing treatment to repair brain connections.

12. Swollen Eyelids (Blepharitis)

Symptoms of Blepharitis:

  • Gritty, burning, or stinging sensation in eyes
  • Eyelids that appear greasy
  • Red, swollen and watery eyes
  • Flaking of skin around the eyes
  • Crusted eyelashes

Blepharitis is a swelling in the oil glands of the eyelid that causes inflammation and crusting around the eye. This can be prevented by having your child wash their hands often and telling them to stop rubbing their eyes. It can also help to apply a warm, moist compression several times a day and wash your child’s eyelids daily. In rare cases, it can result in vision loss or damage to the eyelids.

13. Pink Eye

Symptoms of Pink Eye:

  • Pink or red color in the white of the eyes
  • Increased tear production
  • Itching, burning, and irritation
  • Crusting of eyelids or lashes, especially in the morning

Pink eye, or Conjunctivitis, is more prevalent in children than adults. It occurs when the white part of the eye gets red due to a bacterial or viral infection. It can happen in babies when a tear duct doesn’t completely open, or due to an allergic reaction. Due to the bacteria in a mother’s birth canal, infants can develop a serious form of Conjunctivitis known as Ophthalmia Neonatorum, which requires immediate treatment in order to preserve the baby’s sight. Normal conjunctivitis goes away after treatment with antibiotic eye drops or ointment.

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