October is Children’s Vision Month in Canada and World Sight Day on the 10th. Most kids have been back to school for about a month, and some may start noticing that they are having difficulty seeing the board or their reading material. However, many children don’t know how to explain that they are not seeing well. They do not have the visual experience to know that what they are seeing is unusual. It is important that we know what to look for.
The typical red flag is squinting. Squinting can indicate decreased distance vision due to conditions such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), or astigmatism (variable-shaped cornea). Children also use other methods to cope with decreased distance vision, such as moving closer to the target they are viewing, like the TV or the blackboard. Difficulty reading and writing can be caused by a variety of visual and eye-teaming disorders. Some of the symptoms to look for are avoidance of reading and near work, head tilts, closing or covering one eye when reading, headaches, eyestrain, and double vision.
It is also very important that we notice the appearance of our children’s eyes. Some children with an eye turn, known as strabismus, may not complain of double vision. The reason is because the brain shuts off the image of the turned eye to avoid a double or blurred image. We want to correct this condition because it may cause a lazy eye, which is called amblyopia. Look at your child and take note of their eyes. I personally suggest looking at photographs of your child, especially front-facing photographs with flash. Check for any turns and differences in the way light reflects in their pupils.
Many eye conditions don’t have obvious symptoms. When in doubt, get your child’s eyes examined. You will have the peace of mind that either everything is okay or that we have detected a problem early. OHIP covers a yearly comprehensive eye exam and subsequent follow-up exams for minors age 19 and under.
Dr. Melissa Puzzo is an associate member of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, and holds a special interest in developmental optometry and vision rehabilitation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-929-5312 and book your eye health exam today. Their eyes will thank you later.