Ask the Pediatrician: Vision Problems in Children

boy wearing glassesDr. Ekta Basnet, a pediatrician with Memorial Physician Services, answers a few frequently asked questions parents have about vision problems in children.

Q:  What are some common vision problems and symptoms in kids?
DR. BASNET: Hyperopia (far-sightedness) and myopia (near-sightedness) are both common in kids. With hyperopia, people can see things at a distance clearly but cannot see things up close. Symptoms of hyperopia include blurred vision (especially at night), trouble seeing up close, eye strain and headaches. Myopia is the opposite; objects near are clear, but objects in the distance are blurry. Children with myopia often complain of not being able to see the boards at school, hold objects close to their eyes , rub the eyes and experience eye strain and headaches.

An astigmatism happens when the front of the eye or lens itself has a different surface curvature in one direction from the other. The most common symptom is blurred or double vision, which can cause difficulty reading, eye strain, fatigue and headaches.

Strabismus happens when the eyes do not focus on the same direction accurately, which makes the eye appear lazy. The eye could be either turned inward or outward.

Amblyopia (“lazy eye”) can occur due to all the conditions described above. The brain chooses to take an image from the stronger eye and ignore the weaker eye. This leads to poor vision in the weaker eye, even leading to blindness if not treated early. Problems could start between birth and around age 7.

Q: Is there any correlation between excessive screen time and vision problems in kids?
DR. BASNET:  No studies have actually proven a direct correlation between excessive screen time and vision problems in kids, but it definitely causes them to have eye fatigue, tired neck muscles and backaches from incorrect posture.

Q: What can parents do to help child’s vision development?
DR. BASNET: Good nutrition, exercise and an overall healthy lifestyle is an answer for good vision development in kids and that’s the answer to almost everything!

However, I would say a regular physical exam at the primary care doctor, and following doctor’s recommendations regarding vision screenings, is the key. Also, if a child needs to wear glasses, make sure he or she is wearing them as recommended.

Limiting screen time to no more than two hours a day is a good idea. Encourage kids to take a break from the screen every 20-30 minutes to let the eyes rest and to adjust to some far vision. Encourage them to sit up in a chair at a desk with their feet on the ground while at the computer to maintain their posture. Also, make sure the screen is at least 20-28 inches away from their eyes.

Q:  Do children ever “grow out” of vision problems?
DR. BASNET: Farsightedness often starts in early childhood but normal growth usually corrects the problem. But as we age, the eyes can no longer adjust well.

Nearsightedness usually runs in the family. Most of the time the condition plateaus, but can worsen with age. The key is to have a regular eye exam as recommended to avoid worsening of the symptoms.

Regular wellness check-ups are important for your family’s health. Memorial Physician Services can provide your entire family the services you need – in sickness and in health. Meet our physicians, or set up an appointment today.