As children grow, their vision becomes increasingly relevant to their academic and social success. For example, children who have difficulty reading due to a visual problem may shy away from reading aloud in class, fearing ridicule from their classmates. Given that 80% of classroom learning is vision-based, it’s no surprise that even slight visual difficulties can dramatically affect scholastic achievement. For this reason it’s important for parents and teachers to be aware of the most prevalent visual problems that can affect children.
Fortunately, many of these conditions are treatable. At Thompson Family Optometry, we treat children with various visual impairments and help them regain the visual ability and confidence they need to succeed.
Here’s our list of the five most common pediatric visual problems that we treat on a daily basis:
1- Refractive Errors
Refractive errors such as nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism are the most common visual problems in children today. Myopia and hyperopia impair visual acuity, which is the ability to clearly see objects that are close up or far away. Children with refractive errors may squint, sit too close to the whiteboard or TV screen, or complain that their vision is fuzzy. Prescription lenses are the most effective way to correct refractive errors.
2- Binocular Vision Dysfunction
Binocular vision is the ability to see one image with both eyes working together. When the eyes are aligned perfectly, they send two images to the brain, and the brain creates one clear image. In binocular vision dysfunction (BVD) the eyes have difficulty working together. BVD can produce symptoms similar to a learning disorder and can impact academic success, making it crucial for a child that’s been diagnosed with a learning disorder to undergo a functional eye exam to rule out visual dysfunction as the primary cause of symptoms.
Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” occurs when vision in one eye is reduced due to a communication error between the brain and the affected eye. Amblyopia usually involves one eye but in rare cases can affect both. It usually develops in infancy and affects 2-5% of preschool-aged children. It’s time to suspect amblyopia if a child or baby becomes visibly bothered when one eye is covered, has poor depth perception, or is excessively clumsy. It’s recommended that babies have their first eye exam around 6 months of age to confirm that their vision is healthy.
Otherwise known as “eye-turn” or “crossed-eyes,” strabismus is an ocular condition where one or both eyes do not focus on the same object at the same time and have trouble maintaining their correct position. Eye misalignment in early childhood can lead to amblyopia, as the brain suppresses the image from the affected eye. Some symptoms of strabismus may include wandering eye (the eyes drift outward) and covering one eye when looking at a near object. Strabismus can result in the child tilting the head to look at an object, and frequently bumping into things. In some children with strabismus, their eyes may appear straight but have difficulty working as a team. This makes it difficult for the eyes to send correct images to the brain.
5- Convergence Insufficiency
Convergence insufficiency (CI) means the eyes have a problem focusing on near or moving objects. Eyes with normal convergence abilities point inwards when focusing on a very nearby object. For example, the closer something moves towards the nose, the more inwards the eyes will point to focus on that object. In cases of CI, the child suffers with fatigue when trying to point inwards, resulting in tiredness, to the point where the child’s reading ability and comprehension are affected. Children with CI will likely have difficulty reading and focusing, and may experience eyestrain or blurred vision.
How Can Your Optometrist Help?
Thompson Family Optometry provides many services and treatments to young patients with visual problems. We offer a wide variety of prescription lenses to correct refractive errors.
We also provide vision therapy to treat conditions such as amblyopia, strabismus, convergence insufficiency, and binocular vision dysfunction. Vision therapy (VT) is a personalized program of in-office treatments and at-home exercises that train the eyes and brain to work in unison.
If you are concerned about your child’s academic or sports performance or think that their visual skills may need strengthening, bring them in for a functional visual evaluation. Dr. Rick Thompson and Dr. Greg Thompson will assess your child’s visual skills and general ocular health using standardized diagnostic tools for the most accurate examination.
For more information and to schedule an appointment, call Thompson Family Optometry today — we look forward to hearing from you!
Thompson Family Optometry serves patients from Brampton, Milton, Mississauga, Etobicoke, and throughout Ontario.