Another summer over, another start to a school year. As you get the kids ready for the classroom, checking off the list of school supplies, new clothes, and drop-off schedules, don’t forget about making sure the are physically and mentally prepared too. Often, we overlook the warning signs that kids may be facing common vision problems.
Are you aware of all the different conditions that can affect your children’s eyes? You’ve probably heard of pink eye, styes, and irritation from allergies. Unfortunately, there are many more eye problems that can lead to serious results if left untreated.
Kids are prone to eye problems because the spread of infection is more common when they’re young. It’s crucial to teach them not to rub their eyes without washing their hands first. And, it’s our jobs as parents to assess their eyes regularly and take them to the eye doctor when we notice something abnormal.
1. Dry Eyes
Tablets and electronic devices are a lifesaver for parents. They distract your little one long enough for you to get things done. However, increased screen time has led to more and more cases of dry eyes for children. Kids and adults tend to blink less when we’re watching something on a screen. The results in a decrease in lubrication of the eye. Dry eyes can cause redness, irritation, and itchiness.
Also known as pink eye, conjunctivitis is a viral infection that happens when kids touch their eyes with dirty hands. It can also be caused by sleeping on an infected pillow or using an infected towel. It’s crucial that kids don’t share these items with each other at school or at home. Most commonly, kids who don’t wash their hands well after using the bathroom can infect themselves by rubbing their eyes. Although it goes away with medication, its best to avoid the spread of conjunctivitis by teaching proper hygiene skills.
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3. Eyelid Styes
Styes are tiny pockets of bacteria in the hair follicles and pores of the eyelid. You may notice a small, swollen bump in between your child’s eyelashes. It can feel hard and tender and cause your kiddo discomfort. Like pink eye, styes are spread by poor hygiene skills. Luckily, you can treat them with medication. A couple times a day, press a warm washcloth over the eye for five minutes. After a few days, the stye should go away on its own.
4. Irritation from Allergies
It’s common for school-aged children to develop seasonal allergies. They could be allergic to pollens in the air, the growth of mold, or even insect bites. Without allergy testing, you won’t know what allergies your child might have. Allergies cause irritation and redness in the eyes. They might be overly teary or abnormally dry. You may need to see a doctor and get allergy eyedrops to use during allergy season.
5. Hand-Eye Coordination Issues
School-aged children are in the midst of developing their hand-eye coordination. They need this skill for playing sports, reaching for objects, and bringing objects (like food) to their face. It’s important for children to have regular eye doctor checkups to ensure their coordination develops. Sometimes, it can be affected by poor eye teaming, poor eye tracking, and poor spacial awareness. If one of these is the case, your doctor may recommend physical therapy and exercises to train the eye muscles.
Many children show signs of myopia when they start going to school. Nearsightedness means they can’t clearly see the board in class or objects farther than a few yards away. Children with myopia need to sit at the front of the classroom until they get glasses to correct their vision. Our vision can change as we age. So, it’s important to do eye exercises with your children and take them for regular eye exams.
Amblyopia is another way of saying “lazy eye.” It occurs when one eye’s muscles are stronger and receives more signals from the brain than the other. This results in one eye being focused and easy to control, and the other being misaligned. This is a problem that requires physical therapy at home, and the guidance of an ophthalmologist. It needs to be addressed immediately because without treatment this condition will get worse.
8. Convergence Insufficiency
This problem is caused by your child’s eyes’ inability to look inwards. It can cause headaches, difficulty reading, and double vision. If your child complains of these symptoms, they need to see an eye doctor. Ask for a comprehensive exam as well as the standard exam, since the latter doesn’t always detect convergence insufficiency. The treatment can vary from reading glasses to eye exercises that work on close-up vision.
Congenial ptosis occurs when the child’s eye muscles aren’t strong enough to hold up the eyelid. This causes drooping in one or both eyelids. You may notice your child tilting or leaning their head back to see. Ptosis can be caused by serious eye issues like tissue diseases or tumors. It’s important to have a doctor assess their ptosis so it can be treated. Left untreated, ptosis can lead to a lazy eye, crossed eyes, or astigmatism.
10. Blocked Tear Duct
The tear duct is the eyes’ drainage system. It cleans tears and debris from the eyes. When one or both tear ducts have a blockage, the eye can become irritated and infected. It’s somewhat common for newborn babies to have blocked tear ducts. Although it can go away with time, there are special massage techniques you can do to help clear the blockage. Untreated, the blockage causes a constantly runny and infected eye. Your child can experience irritation, swelling, and a constant flow of tears.
We don’t mean to scare you; we just want you to be aware of the many eye problems your child can get so you’ll know what to do. While you can treat some of them at home with natural remedies, others may need your doctor’s guidance. Get in the habit of regularly checking your children’s eyes for infection and other abnormalities. Notice how and if they strain their eyes to see.
In many cases, your child will complain of irritation or soreness in the eye. If they can’t yet speak, notice if they’re rubbing their eyes more than normal. Being aware of their vision problems allows you to treat or solve them faster.