NEARSIGHTEDNESS, FARSIGHTEDNESS, AND ASTIGMATISM
These are the most common eye conditions suffered by children and adults alike, typically requiring glasses or contact lenses to improve vision. These conditions result from an abnormally shaped eye, which causes light entering the eye to bend improperly causing blurred vision. Nearsightedness is by far the most common of the three in children.
Those who are nearsighted have difficulty seeing things at a distance. The further away an object is, the harder it is to see clearly. Farsightedness is the opposite—the inability to focus on closer, or near, objects. Astigmatism may be present with either farsightedness or nearsightedness, or may be present on its own and is an imperfect curve of the cornea, or the lens, on the front surface of the eye. Astigmatism typically causes blurred vision regardless. All three of these conditions are treated with prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. Although any of the three may be extreme in nature, they are not dangerous conditions when proper glasses or contact lenses are worn for activities.
AMBLYOPIA AND STRABISMUS
Amblyopia and strabismus are significantly more serious conditions that may lead to permanent vision and eye problems if not detected and treated early enough. They may exist with nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or with normal vision. Amblyopia is commonly referred to as “lazy eye,” a term sometimes confused with the condition called strabismus.
Children with amblyopia may have normal appearing eyes or eyes that appear to be crossed. This condition is caused by a difference in the ability to bend light and thus see properly between the two eyes. If not treated, the affected eye will have irreversible vision loss. The loss may be simply weaker vision in one eye or total blindness in the weaker eye. Without treatment, the brain learns to ignore signals from the weak eye. For best results, this condition must be treated as early as possible, ideally before five or six years of age.
Strabismus is a condition that some mistakenly refer to as “lazy eye” because it is a visible misalignment of the two eyes. One or both eyes may turn in, out, up, or down. Strabismus may be present with or without amblyopia, but if amblyopia is not present and the physical misalignment is not corrected, amblyopia may develop. Treatment typically involves patching the stronger eye to force the weaker eye into proper position. If patching alone doesn’t help, specially designed glasses may be prescribed, or surgery may be necessary to correct the disorder. As with amblyopia, early detection and treatment is critical to prevent vision loss.
SIGNS OF VISION PROBLEMS
The above problems are only the most common vision problems in children. There are many other conditions that may affect a child’s eyes and vision. If your child experiences any of the following symptoms, they may have a vision problem and should see an eye doctor:
- Poor visual focus
- Poor tracking or ability to follow an object with the eyes
- One eye is misaligned, moves independently, or is crossed
- Chronic redness or tearing independent of crying
- Extreme light sensitivity
- Constant rubbing of the eyes
- Difficulty reading or seeing the front of the classroom
- Sitting too close to the TV or computer due to inability to clearly see the screen
If you notice your child having any of the above symptoms, or to schedule a regular eye examination for your child, please call Silverstein Eye Centers today at 816-358-3600.