Recognizing Kids’ Eye Problems

It is estimated by the American Optometric Association that approximately 25 percent of school age children have vision problems. A recent study found that over 11 percent of surveyed teenagers had eye problems that had gone undetected and untreated. Recognizing kids’ eye problems is key to preventing this lack of detection and providing needed treatment.

Kids’ Eye Problem Warning Signs

Any children with a family history of vision problems or eye conditions should be screened regularly, beginning with the first well baby exam. Parents can also help to spot eye conditions in kids by watching for signs of vision problems. Eye problems may manifest different signs at different ages.

Under One Year Old

Children under one year of age but over three months of age should be able to make eye contact and track objects by moving the eyes. Failure to regularly exhibit these behaviors may be a sign of eye problems or other complications. After four months of age, kids’ eyes should also begin to stay more focused and stop drifting inward or outward.

Preschool Age

By preschool age, if a child’s eyes become misaligned, parents should request a medical examination by a doctor. Parents should also be vigilant for signs of eye problems, such as failure to identify objects or faces at a distance. Some eye problems may not have visible signs, so parents should also request an eye examination to test vision. Even if children cannot read, there are special eye examination charts that can be used.

Grade School Age

In grade school, children’s eye problems may be recognizable by learning complications and poor grades. If there are vision problems, the child may not be able to see the blackboard or other teaching tools that the teacher uses. If there are other eye conditions, pain or irritation may distract the child from learning. Children often do not understand what is normal and what is a symptom of a condition, so it is up to parents and teachers to recognize signs of eye problems.

Other signs that children may have eye problems include:

  • White or red color in pupil, especially in photographs
  • Misalignment or drifting of one or both eyes
  • Eye pain
  • Eye itchiness
  • Drooping eyelids or frequent squinting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Crust in the eye
  • Bulges in or around the eye
  • “Bouncing” eyes that move quickly up and down or side to side

Delayed Detection of Eye Problems

Eye problems that go undetected can have many negative consequences on a child’s life. Vision problems can affect the child’s ability to learn and see clearly. This can affect the child’s perception and self esteem, and may limit the child in many ways. Certain eye conditions such as pediatric retinoblastoma can also impact a child’s health and cause fatality if not treated quickly.




“Eye Health Statistics at a Glance.” American Academy of Ophthalmology. American Academy of Ophthalmology, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <>

Salvin, Jonathan. “Amblyopia.” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. The Nemours Foundation, 1 Sept. 2011. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <>

“The Need for Comprehensive Vision Examination of Preschool and School-age Children.” American Optometric Association. American Optometric Association, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <>

“Warning Signs of Vision Problems in Children.” American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 July 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014. <>