Does Your Toddler Need Glasses: 5 Signs to Watch Out For
Each March is National Save Your Vision Month. The American Optometric Association promotes the importance of regular eye exams and awareness of potential vision problems in those around you. This year, National Save Your Vision Month is focusing on digital eyestrain. The average American spends 7 hours each day in front of some type of screen, whether it be a computer, tablet, or smartphone, and this can negatively affect vision, sleep, and more. It’s important to be aware of the signs of vision problems so you can get them corrected as soon as possible to prevent them from worsening. For this same reason, it’s incredibly important to have regular checkups with your eye doctor to ensure your vision is being taken care of.
If you’re a parent with young kids, you already know that you get asked questions at each wellness checkup with the pediatrician about your child’s vision, amongst other things. As children get older, they will get their vision checked at doctors’ appointments and school vision screenings, but it can be much harder to diagnose vision problems in toddlers since they can’t always express or explain their concerns to you. If you suspect your toddler may need glasses or you simply want to be as preventative and proactive as possible with their vision, here are 5 signs to watch out for when it comes to your toddler’s vision.
Adults and children alike tend to squint when they feel like they can’t see something well. While this may just be a sign of slightly less-than-perfect vision, it could also be a sign of a refractive error. All this means is that the eye shape doesn’t allow light to directly focus on the retina. Squinting often shifts where the light hits, making it easier for children to see. Refractive errors are usually corrected with glasses, especially in young children, but occasionally surgery will be necessary to fix the issue and bring about restored vision. The best thing to do if your child is squinting frequently is to take him or her to an eye doctor for further examination.
Getting Very Close to Things They Need to See
Children are notorious for sitting too close to the TV, but if they regularly get close to things that they are looking at, it may be a sign that they have a vision problem. Nearsightedness is likely the culprit of this tendency, as the closer things are to the child’s face, the more clearly he or she can see them. Pay attention when your toddler is looking at a book or watching something on a phone or tablet. If he drops his head or pulls the object especially close to his face, it may warrant further exploration. You can try reminding your child not to put something so close to their face or you could intentionally place an object (such as a tablet) a few feet away from them and see if they pick it up or move it closer to them. Sometimes kids just like to be close to things they’re watching or looking at, but if it is a frequent occurrence, it could be a sign that they need glasses.
Excessive Eye Rubbing
Most kids rub their eyes when they’re tired, but when they do it a lot, it may mean that their eyes are fatigued or strained. Other common reasons for excessive eye rubbing include allergies, pink eye, and dry eyes. If you don’t believe it’s one of those things or if you simply want a professional opinion, you should take your toddler into the eye doctor to get checked out. Eye fatigue is incredibly common in individuals with vision problems, particularly when one eye is stronger than the other. If this is the case, the strong eye is working overtime to make up for the weaker eye, causing it to be strained, and the weaker eye is trying desperately to keep up, causing it to be strained as well. If your toddler is rubbing his or her eyes frequently and it doesn’t seem to be because of allergies or pink eye, you should definitely take them into the eye doctor to have them screened for vision problems.
Sometimes, children’s eyes can be slightly misaligned so that they appear to point in different directions. This is also called crossed eyes, or strabismus. Children with this issue tend to tilt their heads in order to focus their eyes on something, or they may cover one eye while looking at something to get a clearer view of what they’re looking at. If you notice your toddler tilting her head a lot, especially if it occurs while she is also squinting, rubbing her eyes, or getting extremely close to something, you should definitely have her vision checked with a qualified eye doctor to see if she may need glasses.
Complaining of Eye Pain or Headaches
Younger toddlers often cannot verbalize pain properly, but you probably know when your child is crying from pain versus crying for another reason. Thankfully, older toddlers often can tell you exactly what’s wrong and what hurts when they’re in pain. If your child tells you or you suspect that he is having headaches or eye pain, these can be signs that they are having vision problems. Eye strain can often lead to eye pain and headaches, and that typically occurs when children are facing blurred vision and overexertion of the eyes.
If you think your child may need glasses or if you notice any one of these signs and are concerned, it’s best to have their eyes checked with an eye doctor at a nearby NCHS clinic. Being proactive about protecting your child’s vision and taking preventative measures to keep their vision intact is in their best interest, so don’t hesitate to set up a vision screening appointment with NCHS today.