While a loss of visual acuity is often associated with senior citizens, various diseases and conditions of the eye can affect children. The American Academy of Opthalmology says many conditions and diseases can impact a child’s vision. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to improving a youngster’s eye health and helping him or her see and feel better.
Ashley Allred, O.D., said, “A simple appointment with an eye doctor can detect these conditions even in infants.”
Learning about certain conditions and how to recognize their accompanying symptoms can help parents ensure kids get the treatment they need.
Often referred to as “lazy eye,” amblyopia may be characterized by reduced vision in an eye that has not received adequate use during early childhood. Amblyopia may result from misalignment of a child’s eyes or from one eye focusing better than the other. If left untreated, the weaker eye can continue to weaken until it is rendered useless.
According to Allred, “Ambyopia is very common and can go undetected until a child applies for their drivers license, as we don’t routinely cover one eye in every day life.”
Sight in the affected eye can be restored if treatment is begun early, according to some experts. Glasses, eye exercises, or surgery may be prescribed to help fix the underlying causes of the condition.
Astigmatism is a condition wherein objects viewed at both a distance and close up can appear blurry. Experts say it occurs from the uneven curvature of the cornea or lens, which prevents rays of light from entering the eye and focusing on a single point on the retina, otherwise known as a refractive error. Prescription eyeglasses often fix astigmatism.
When asked how serious an astigmatism can be, Allred replied, “Astigmatism may cause symptoms such as headaches, trouble focusing, and blurry vision. It can cause amblyopia if left uncorrected.”
Refractive surgery may also correct astigmatism according to these experts.
Color blindness (color vision deficiency)
The main symptom of color blindness is difficulty distinguishing between colors or making mistakes when identifying colors, particularly those shaded red and green. Typically by age five, children with normal color vision will be able to identify groups of colors, so if a school-aged child is having difficulty or showing disinterest in coloring, he or she may benefit from a colorblindness test.
“It is imperative that you are aware if your child has a color vision abnormality. This can limit their ability to perform certain tasks on the job and exclude them from certain careers altogether,” Allred said.
The National Eye Institute says color blindness is much more common in males than in females.
This rare condition, also known as congenital glaucoma, occurs in infants and young children. The Glaucoma Research Foundation says incorrect development of the eye’s drainage system before birth leads to increased intraocular pressure, which can damage the optic nerve. Enlarged eyes, corneal cloudiness and sensitivity to light can be symptoms. Medication and surgery are required in most cases.
Strabismus is a condition of misaligned eyes. It occurs when the eye muscles fail to work together and the eyes turn inward, outward, upward, or downward. By the age of three to four months, an infant’s eyes should be able to focus and be straight and parallel. Parents should consult an eye care professional if they notice eye alignment problems in their children.
Pink eye (conjunctivitis), diabetes-related eye problems, and other refractive errors also can occur in children. Routine eye examinations can identify problems and get children the treatment they need.