6 Surprisingly Common Eye Issues In Children

August is Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month, and as many children prepare to go back to school, one of the things that often comes up during this month is the question of whether or not to have your children get an eye exam. Of course, regardless of when you’re reading this article, eye health and safety is important and the answer is an annual eye exam is never a bad idea. With that in mind, we discuss six surprising common eye issues in children, how they are diagnosed, and how you can prevent many eye injuries.  

The 6 Eye Issues Impacting Children the Most

  • Near/Farsightedness
  • Astigmatism
  • Lazy Eye
  • Crossed Eyes
  • Color Blindness
  • Drooping Eyelid

Now that you know what they are, let’s break them down a little further. 

Near/Farsightedness

Nearsightedness: Also called myopia, this common condition is caused by light that comes into the eye not being properly focused on the retina (images are focused on in front of your retina, rather than on it). This makes it difficult to see objects far away. 

Farsightedness: Also called hyperopia, farsightedness is typically caused by the eyeball being too short. This causes light to be unable to focus directly on the retina, and causes images that are close up to be blurry (images are focused on behind your retina instead of on it). 

Diagnosing Near/Farsightedness

One way an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) tests this is by dilating your pupils and examining your eyes for refractive errors. With a pupil dilation exam, your eyes will typically be sensitive to light for several hours after it’s over. 

Another way they will diagnose is by using a Snellen Test Chart that measures your visual acuity by covering one eye at a time and testing your ability to see what is on the chart in front of you. This is the poster you may recognize with numbers and letters that decrease in size as you go down the chart.

Astigmatism

Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is irregularly shaped or there is a curvature of the lens inside the eye. When you have an irregularly shaped cornea or lens, the light can’t focus properly on the retina and vision becomes blurred at a distance as a result. The most common symptoms for people with astigmatism are headaches, eye strain and discomfort, and the inability to see images at a distance. 

Diagnosing Astigmatism

Like the near/farsightedness test, this is typically diagnosed with a dilated pupil eye exam and with the Snellen Test Chart. However, an additional tool is also used in an eye exam for astigmatism that measures the curvature of your cornea. This tool is called a keratometer. 

Methods of treatment for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism include:

  • Eye-glasses
  • Lasik and other refractive surgery procedures
  • Contact lenses

However, most children will be treated with eye-glasses first because as they age their eyes can still grow, reshape, and change. 

Lazy Eye

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, occurs when the vision in one eye is reduced due to an abnormal visual development early in a child’s life. The eye that is weaker, called the lazy one, will often wander outward or inward instead of remaining focused on a subject/image. This condition typically will develop in children from birth to about the age of seven. It is rare, but in some cases, a child can have both eyes impacted by lazy eye. 

Diagnosing Lazy Eye

Again, the ophthalmologist will begin with a pupil dilation eye exam and an eye chart visual acuity test. In this case, however, the doctor will also be monitoring to see if the child has an eye that is wandering as they read the chart.

Treating Lazy Eye

It is critical that if you have a child with a lazy eye diagnosis that it is treated sooner rather than later. Corrective eyewear, eye patches, eye drops, a special filter called the Bangerter filter, and even surgery may all be used as treatments. The reason it’s so critical to address as soon as a diagnosis is reached is that with lazy eye, the diagnosis will only get worse. With proper treatment however, vision may be improved in as little as a couple of weeks or a few months. After treatment, doctors recommend monitoring for lazy eye because it can recur in 25% of children. 

Crossed Eyes

Crossed eyes, also known as strabismus, is the condition that occurs when your eyes don’t line up. It’s common for people with crossed eyes to always be looking in different directions because each eye is focusing on a different object. Crossed eyes are most common in children, but have been known to set in later in life when a patient incurs a medical condition like a stroke. 

If you suspect you have crossed eyes, it may be a good idea to visit a diagnostic imaging center and test for stroke and other brain injuries. 

Also see our post about three methods of screening for stroke risk.

Diagnosing Crossed Eyes

Like other eye issues you’ll start with the standard eye exams, but you will also be given a corneal light reflex test that specifically checks for crossed eyes. People who have suffered from brain disorders, tumors, and other brain injuries are the most at risk for crossed eyes. 

Treating Crossed Eyes

Treatments vary based on your unique case, but might include:

  • Eye exercises
  • Eyeglasses or contacts
  • Surgery
  • Some cases even warrant the use of Botox injections 

Color Blindness

Color blindness is not blindess but rather a color vision deficiency. The perception of colors in a patient that is colorblind is different from what most people see. Men are much more likely to be colorblind than women and it’s typically hereditary. However, it can occur due to a brain injury or when there is a physical or chemical injury directly to the eye/eyes.

Diagnosing Color Blindness

The Ishihara Color Test is the go-to test for red-green color blindness, which is the most common type of color blindness. This test features a series of colored circles and the doctor will ask the patient to state what color dots, numbers, and shapes within the circles are. Unfortunately, if diagnosed with color blindness, there is no current cure or treatment. On the other hand, there are glasses with special lenses that can help some patients perceive color more accurately. 

Drooping Eyelid

Drooping Eyelid, known by its medical name ptosis, occurs when one or both eyelids droop. While it isn’t painful, it can inhibit your vision if your eyelids droop over your eyes too much. It can occur naturally or due to an injury that causes damaged muscles and/or ligaments around the eyelid. 

Diagnosing Drooping Eyelid

Diagnosis is typically just determined by looking at the eyelid and determining that the eyelid won’t stay up. However, in some cases, diagnostic imaging tests such as MRIs and CT scans may be performed to see if there are any injuries that could be resulting in the drooping eyelid or eyelids. 

Treating Drooping Eyelid

The most common method of treatment for drooping eyelids is surgery. 

How to Prevent Eye Injuries

Eye injuries can be detrimental to your visual health. Not only could an injury impair your vision, but it could also result in color blindness, drooping eyelid, or crossed eyes. How can prevent eye injuries? Here are some simple tips you can use to protect yourself:

  • Wear protective eyewear or goggles if you will be doing something risky: For example, if anything could fly in your eyes or chemicals could splash in your face. It’s even a good idea to wear protective eyewear or goggles while doing something as simple as mowing the lawn because of flying debris
  • Do your best not to fall
  • Wear a helmet when riding a bicycle 
  • Don’t expose your eyes directly to laser lights such as laser pointers
  • Use caution or avoid use of BB and pellet guns
  • Wear all protective gear recommended for contact sports
  • Don’t use fireworks at home – leave it to the pros
  • Use blue light blocking eyewear for screen time to avoid eye strain

We hope you can see the importance of taking care of your eyes because in many ways your vision safety and health are in your hands. While it may feel overprotective at times, using caution with some activities and wearing the right gear can be the difference between good vision health, and some of the common eye issues we’ve addressed here today.

Click here if you need to schedule your X-Ray, Ultrasound, CT, or MRI or call our Humble or Houston office to speak with our friendly team!

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