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10 Signs Your Child May be Experiencing Vision Problems: A Guide

Posted on July 29th, 2021

According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, over 25% of school-age children experience vision problems, with studies showing a direct correlation between poor eye health and poor performance in class and other areas of life. Notably, there is so much more to a child’s vision than just 20/20 vision. Kids who have good vision may still experience a strained visual system, leading to difficulty in reading and other visual tasks that should seemingly be easy. If your child exhibits signs of stress and strain, they may still need a professional eye doctor's help regardless of their prescription.

Most school systems are designed as heavily visual-reliant systems; children are expected to read, write, and interact with the educational materials in a predominantly visual context. Studies show that children who have trouble seeing tend to develop difficulty concentrating and memorizing information both at school and at home. Muscle movements and motor skills are affected, as well as imitation and repetition skills. Language skills and social skills are also impaired.

Ruling out vision problems in your child is one of the best steps towards their success. Regular eye exams and eye health are critical for determining eye diseases in children and aiding in proper childhood development and overall health. For many parents and caretakers, it’s hard to notice when a child requires an eye exam. Below you’ll find a list of nine signs a child may be struggling with visual acuity.

Nine signs a child may be struggling with vision

1. Tiredness or complaints of discomfort

Children are known for being filled with energy, so if they complain about being tired or show signs of discomfort or worsening lethargy, it could be linked to vision trouble. Activities that require intense eye strain can cause fatigue, and when a child is exerting more energy than his or her peers to do the same activities, they will show signs of exhaustion.

2. Short attention span

Proper vision is key to a child being able to concentrate and listen. Without having the ability to see details on something like a blackboard, screen, or other visual cue, younger children especially will naturally get bored and give up paying attention, either due to finding materials that are visibly closer or due to physical discomfort from the eye strain.

3. Avoiding detail-focused activities

Because visual work such as reading, drawing, or even working on a computer is tiring and involves significant eye strain, a child struggling to see the details will avoid these types of behaviours both for work and fun.

4. Frequent headaches

Children with undiagnosed farsightedness often experience painful headaches from the strain of trying to compensate for their blurry vision. Eye strain from screens is another reason headaches may develop, especially as children are experiencing more screen time with at-home learning. Headaches can also be a sign of other potentially serious eye issues, and your child should be examined right away by your vision care professional.

5. Covers one eye

If you see your child covering one eye, it could be the sign of an uncorrected vision issue. The cause could be that one eye is performing a function better than another. Refractive errors such as astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness all can cause such behaviour. Covering an eye is simply an easy way for a child to “turn off” the eye that’s giving them problems. While it is impossible to determine what vision problems the child is experiencing, it is a sign that an eye exam is necessary.

6. Tilting of the head or other abnormal head postures

If you see your child tilting their head in any unusually aligned direction, it may be the sign of vision problems. Eye misalignment, nystagmus, droopy eyelids, or any other types of refractive errors can be the cause of this behaviour. In many cases, quick intervention is necessary so that your child doesn’t learn to overuse one eye over another (as with eye covering), as that might lead to further imbalances, or permanently decreased vision in the weaker eye.

7. Getting really close to reading materials and screens

It’s the oldest sign in the book. Watching anyone press their nose close up to a book or screen is a sure sign that they’re struggling with focusing. Children will also stand up and get really close to a television or game screen.

8. Squinting

For many children, squinting is a common sign of a potential vision problem. Squinting reduces the size of a blurry image on the back of the retina, making it temporarily easier to see and can produce a sharper image. Squinting means that your child may require vision correction, as it is never normal for a child to have to squint in order to see better.

9. Light sensitivity

LIght sensitivity, while a nuisance, is usually harmless. However, it may be a sign of possible refractive eye health issues. Sensitivity to light may show up as squinting, double vision, halos or it can induce headaches. Photosensitivity tends to be associated with corneal issues and refractive conditions such as astigmatism and strabismus, though these are by no means the only possible causes.

10. School Performance Drop

Struggling with vision will impact a child’s ability to learn. If you notice your child's grades and attention start to uncharacteristically slip, it's a possible sign of vision problems that need to be addressed quickly to avoid further academic hurdles.

What to do if a child is exhibiting symptoms

If a child is showing any of these signs of eyesight problems, they should be seen by a professional to determine if vision correction or treatment is necessary. Most children’s eye exams are covered by the government, but ages and rules vary by province. Book an eye exam at your local FYidoctors clinic today.

Did you know that FYidoctors has a program called Better Sight. Better Grades? We are all about the health of our communities and are dedicated to ensuring that no children go without the medical help they require. The program provides a free eye exam and a free pair of prescription glasses to any child in need, no strings attached. Find out more about the Better Sight. Better Grades program.