Good vision is key to a child’s physical development, success in school and overall well-being. From birth through the teen years, a child’s eyesight can change remarkably. Your Pediatrician can keep you informed on signs of normal or abnormal visual development.
The vision system is not fully formed in babies and young children, and equal input from both eyes is necessary for the brain’s vision centers to develop normally. If a young child’s eyes cannot send clear images to the brain, his or her vision may be limited in ways that can never be reversed. But if problems are detected early, it is usually possible to treat them effectively.
At one month your baby still can’t see very clearly beyond 12 inches (30.4 cm) or so, but he or she will closely study anything within this range: the corner of the crib, toys attached to the side rail, or the shapes of mobile dangling above the crib. The human face is a baby’s favorite image however.
Your baby’s distance vision also is developing at this time. You may notice at three months that your baby is smiling at you halfway across the room, or studying a toy several feet away. By four months, you’ll catch your baby staring at the distant wall hanging or looking out the window. These are clues that the baby’s distance vision is developing properly.
Newborn. All infants before discharge from the hospital should have their eyes checked in the newborn nursery for infections, defects, cataracts, or glaucoma. This is especially true for premature infants, infants who were given oxygen, and infants with multiple medical problems.
6 months of age. Pediatricians should screen infants at their well-baby visits to check for proper eye health, vision development, and alignment of the eyes.
3 to 4 years of age. All children should have their eyes and vision checked for any abnormalities that may cause problems with later development.
5 years of age and older. Your pediatrician should check your child's vision in each eye separately every year. If a problem is found during routine eye exams, your pediatrician may have your child see a pediatric ophthalmologist, an eye doctor trained and experienced in the care of children's eye problems. Your pediatrician can advise you on eye doctors in your area.
Middle childhood is a common time for the recognition of vision problems, especially when children first have assigned seats in classrooms. Your child may tell you that he cannot read the blackboard unless he squints or moves to a front-row seat. Or you may notice that when she watches television, she sits close to the set. Less commonly, your child may complain that the words on the pages of books are blurry. All of these suggest a focusing problem and call for an examination by an eye doctor.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is the most common vision problem among school-age children, often developing between age six and adolescence. As a result the child cannot clearly see distant objects.
Children with Hyperopia, or farsightedness, have the opposite problem. Because of the shorter shape of their eyeballs, images are focused behind the retina, causing them to be blurry. These children cannot clearly see objects that are close to them without making an effort to focus.
No matter how old your child is, if you spot any one of the following, let your pediatrician know:
• Eyes that look crossed, turn out, or don't focus together
• White, grayish-white, or yellow-colored material in the pupil
• Eyes that flutter quickly from side-to-side or up-and-down
• Bulging eye(s)
• Persistent eye pain, itching, or discomfort
• Redness in either eye that doesn't go away in a few days
• Pus or crust in either eye
• Eyes that are always watery
• Drooping eyelid(s)
• Excessive rubbing or squinting of the eyes
• Eyes that are always sensitive to light