8 Hidden Signs Your Child May Have Vision Problems

Is your child struggling to pay attention in class? Do they complain of frequent headaches with no apparent cause? While you may be confident that you know how to tell if you need glasses, the signs your child exhibits may not be as obvious. Your child may not announce they have blurry or wavy vision but will tell you in more subtle ways.

At Lang Family Eye Care, we’ve seen many cases where children have been referred to all kinds of doctors, from neurologists to psychiatrists, when all they needed was vision care! Take a look at some of the more subtle signs you need glasses, contact lenses, or other vision care for your child or yourself.

#1: They rub their eyes

You may observe your child rubbing their eyes in response to eye strain and fatigue. While the reasons behind this habit remain unclear, it is suggested that applying physical pressure to the eyes may trigger the release of tears, providing temporary relief from itchiness, dryness, or even briefly improving blurry vision.

This behavior has potential dangers, so encourage them to stop. Rubbing the eyes can transfer harmful bacteria and viruses, posing a risk to eye health. Furthermore, it may increase the likelihood of long-term damage to the eyes. Rubbing the eyes may increase intraocular pressure (IOP), which may damage the optic nerve, potentially causing glaucoma. A child rubbing their eyes may indicate they need glasses, so schedule an eye exam before it causes deeper problems.

#2: They hold screens and papers close to their face

Childrens Vision ProblemsChildren with mild myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness, might experience blurry vision while watching TV or looking across the room. This leads them to gradually move closer to the screen in order to compensate.

If you notice your child sitting only two feet away from the TV, ask if it’s because the image was blurry from a farther distance.

Extreme nearsightedness can affect a child’s ability to read books or use tablets at a normal distance. They may need to hold reading material very close to their face to see clearly, depending on the severity of their myopia.

In today’s world, screens are everywhere. Pay attention to whether your child holds their screens very close to their face and talk to a Lang Family Eye Doctor before excessive close screen time further harms their eyes.

See also our recent article with Tips to Prevent Myopia from Worsening.

#3: They cover up one of their eyes

If your child likes playing a pirate, eye strain could be to blame. Amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye,” is a condition in which the eye and brain do not work together properly, resulting in poor vision in one or both eyes in affected children.

Unfortunately, kids often adapt to this vision issue and may not mention it. As a result, amblyopia can go undiagnosed for years. From birth until approximately the age of 8, a child’s eyes and brain establish important connections. Anything that obstructs or blurs vision in one or both eyes can hinder these connections.

When this occurs, the brain may not fully recognize the images seen by one or both eyes. Consequently, the brain starts to ignore the images seen by the otherwise healthy eye, causing that eye to weaken and lose vision strength. This weakened eye is referred to as “amblyopic.”

Other signs to look out for include crossed eyes, frequent squinting, and tilting of the head to see better. Some children with amblyopia may also exhibit poor depth perception.

#4: They have frequent headaches or nausea

Are your child’s regular headaches impacting their school attendance and ability to learn? They may be suffering from Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD). BVD is a common visual condition that often goes undiagnosed by pediatricians. When a child has BVD, their eyes see images slightly out of alignment, causing their eye strain. This can lead to symptoms such as headaches, blurry vision, dizziness, and difficulty with reading and learning.

Misalignments between the eyes can develop over time or due to head injuries from sports or accidents. Unfortunately, standard vision screenings at school may not detect subtle misalignments that can still cause reading and focusing difficulties.

A comprehensive eye exam at Lang Family Eye Care will determine if BVD is the cause of your child’s symptoms. We can then prescribe specialized eyeglasses with aligning micro-prism lenses that help the eyes work together for improved vision.

With our aligning lenses, your child’s eyes can finally create one clear image without constantly struggling to realign. This allows their eye muscles to relax, providing relief from headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Prescription eyeglasses are simple and have an immediate impact.

#5: They have behavior problems in the classroom

Children can't see in classDid you also know that nearly 1 in 10 school-age children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Here’s the surprising part: these conditions are not always due to bad behavior but may be caused by an inability to clearly see the teacher and board in class, making it difficult to pay attention and sit still. One vision problem is convergence insufficiency, which results in blurry or double vision and often causes attention issues that are mistaken for ADHD. In fact, convergence insufficiency is three times more common in people with ADHD than in those without.

Vision and learning are so closely linked that if a child has an unknown visual obstacle, it can lead to conduct issues like inattentiveness, hyperactivity, difficulty following directions, and resistance to reading or doing homework.

Some common visual problems that can result in behavioral issues include near- and far-sightedness, dyslexia (which is often misdiagnosed as a visual-spatial disorder), astigmatism, strabismus (crossed or misaligned eyes), amblyopia or lazy eye, and deficiencies with eye teamwork and visual perception.

It’s no wonder that children with these vision problems try to avoid activities like reading and writing. Their frustration can lead to poor self-esteem, anger, lack of self-confidence, and even behavioral problems like bullying or fighting.

If your child is diagnosed with a behavioral disorder, schedule an appointment at Lang Family Eye Care to see if they actually have a vision problem instead. If that is the case, various treatment options are available, such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, performance-enhancing lenses, colored light therapy, and vision therapy. Our goal is to alleviate the vision problems that hinder your child’s reading, learning, and overall education.

#6: They struggle with sports

Your child may not be a born Aaron Rogers (or Jordan Love), but if they’re struggling to see, they’re not playing their best. If your child is struggling to keep up with their peers in sports, it could be due to a lazy eye, which affects depth perception. Without clear depth perception, playing sports can be difficult. Both eyes need to work together to judge the location of objects in space.

A lazy eye can also lead to frequent tripping, falling, and accidents. Without clear depth perception, children may struggle to navigate their environment safely.

In addition, lazy eye symptoms can impact fine motor skills, including legible handwriting. Binocular coordination, which is crucial for depth perception, may be reduced in children with lazy eye.

Another reason your child may struggle with sports is retinitis pigmentosa, known as night blindness. This can cause poor coordination and depth perception during evening and night hours. If lazy eye or night blindness is the cause, we will determine if your child can use glasses or contact lenses for playing sports.

#7: They’ve been diagnosed with a learning disability

Between 5% and 15% of school-age children have a learning disability, the most common being reading disorders like dyslexia, affecting about 80% of those with learning disorders. While school psychologists may diagnose these disorders, there are some causes that only an eye doctor can identify.

If your child frequently loses their place or skips lines while reading, they may be dealing with learning and reading difficulties. These challenges can greatly impact your child’s life, making learning and comprehending the words on the page almost impossible. If academic interventions have failed and you’re still searching for relief from your child’s reading and learning disability, it’s time to consider another possibility—poor vision!

When the eyes experience a refractive error, the brain tries to correct the misalignment by realigning the eyes, but the realignment is only temporary. It soon reverts back to misalignment, followed by another attempt at realignment, creating a cycle of strain on the eye muscles. This can result in a number of symptoms that mimic learning disorders. This can greatly hinder a child’s success in school. If your child was diagnosed with a reading or learning disability, corrective lenses from Lang Family Eye Care could be an easy fix.

#8: They tilt their head

Do you ever notice your child tilting their head to see things from a distance? It may not just be a quirk, but a clear sign that they may need vision help.

Many kids don’t realize they have less than perfect vision and will compensate in various ways. Choosing to sit closer to the TV or board, squinting, and tilting their heads are common coping mechanisms. Tilting the head is often an indication that their vision is better in one eye than the other, and they are trying to align them. However, relying on this method won’t actually improve the weaker eye’s vision. Prescription glasses or contact lenses can correct their vision and eliminate the need for compensating behaviors.

If you frequently observe your child tilting their head to see things in the distance, it is definitely worth making an appointment with a Lang Family Eye Care Doctor. Our quick and thorough eye exam will determine if your child’s head tilt is due to distorted vision.

The Power of Early Detection

In our fast-paced lives, it’s easy to overlook the little things, like changes in our children’s eyes. But their eye and optic health cannot be ignored.

According to a study by the American Association of Orthoptists, early detection and treatment of ocular disorders in children is crucial to prevent lifelong visual impairment. Even newborns should be examined for structural abnormalities that could lead to vision problems.

When to Schedule an Appointment

Our children’s eye doctors in New Berlin recommend bringing your child for their first visual examination between the ages of 3 and 4. If there’s a suspected problem, it’s important to see an ophthalmologist right away, regardless of age. Many conditions are only treatable at a young age or early stages, so our specialists will conduct thorough examinations to identify potential issues.

Pediatricians and Eye Exams

Your pediatrician most likely looks at your child’s eyes as a part of their routine exam. As your child grows, their eyes can change rapidly and develop refractive errors or other issues at any time. While your child’s pediatrician may conduct vision screenings during regular checkups, it’s important to understand that these checkups are not the same as comprehensive eye exams. If a vision problem is detected, your pediatrician may recommend a visit to an eye doctor for further evaluation and treatment.

School Vision Screenings vs a Comprehensive Eye Exam

In combination with their annual checkup, you may assume that your child’s school vision screening is sufficient. That is false! Unlike regular vision screenings, a comprehensive eye exam goes beyond detecting common vision issues. It can diagnose visual health problems and identify ocular conditions.

During the exam, your Lang Family eye doctor will determine your child’s prescription, use special drops to dilate the pupils, and examine the back of each eye. This allows us to check for early signs of diabetes, glaucoma, and other potential issues that could impact your child’s overall eye health.

Eye Sight Conditions that Can Be Treated Early

Amblyopia, strabismus, nystagmus, cataracts, retinal disorders, and eyelid problems are all best treated in the early stages. Don’t wait to evaluate your child’s vision. Identify these problems before they worsen.

Pediatric Eye Exams at Lang Family Eye Care

How to tell if your child has vision problemsExperience the most comprehensive and caring eye care in New Berlin, Wisconsin, and metro Milwaukee at Lang Family Eye Care! Our team is here to ensure that your child’s eye exam is enjoyable and relaxing and addresses all of your questions and concerns. We believe in the importance of kindness and taking a genuine interest in your child’s health, making your family the foundation of our practice.

Our commitment to your eye health means that we prioritize regular eye exams to keep your vision clear throughout your lifetime. We welcome patients of all ages and ability levels, including young children and students who have unique vision demands.

If your child does end up wearing glasses, understand that not all lenses are created equal. Our custom-made lenses offer crisper optics, and we carry a large assortment of spectacular frames to fit every face and style.

We stay up to date with the latest advancements in eye health and utilize advanced instrumentation to ensure the best possible care. From pediatric and developmental care to ocular disease management, we treat the entire family. Additionally, we specialize in customized contacts using corneal mapping, offering a wide selection of contacts and frames from every brand. We also prioritize personalized ophthalmic prescriptions to meet the demands of today’s ever-changing working environments and recreational needs, going beyond regular glasses.

At Lang Family Eye Care, our team believes in going above and beyond to take amazing care of you and your family’s eyes. As a husband and wife practice, we are proud to be a part of the New Berlin and Waukesha community, and we are dedicated to providing you with the most individualized and comprehensive family eye care experience. Call us today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child and see if they have been secretly telling you they need vision help all along!

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