Your Child’s Vision: What to Do if You Spot Problems

You've noticed your child squints. Does she have a vision problem?

It can be a sign of nearsightedness, or myopia, as your doctor would call it. Nearsightedness is just one of several common childhood vision problems.

One out of every 4 kids has trouble with eyesight. Often, parents don't know there's a problem. That's why all children should get regular eye exams.

4 Clues of Childhood Vision Problems

Her eyes cross or don’t line up with each other.

It might be: Eyes that aren’t aligned (strabismus).

What to do: Take her to a pediatric ophthalmologist. He may put a patch over the stronger eye to strengthen the weaker one, or prescribe special glasses or eye exercises.

She has trouble seeing things far away.

It might be: Nearsightedness, or myopia.

What to do: Get her vision checked. Eyeglasses or contact lenses can improve distance vision.

She can’t things close up.

It might be: Farsightedness, or hyperopia.

What to do: Get her eyeglasses or contact lenses to help with close-up vision.

Her vision is blurry.

It might be: A problem called astigmatism. It means the cornea of her eye is curved and can't focus on images clearly.

What to do: Take her for an eye exam to see if eyeglasses would help.

Other Common Problems

Some kids have a lazy eye. You might hear her doctor call it amblyopia. She may not have symptoms. But the doctor should be able to spot it during a regular eye exam. He can usually correct (or improve) it if he finds and treats it early enough. She may have to wear an eye patch on her stronger eye. It’s rare, but some kids need surgery.

Less common problems include:

  • Glaucoma : A group of diseases that damage the eye’s main nerve. It's more common later in life, but some children are born with glaucoma or develop it as they grow.
  • Cataracts: These cloud the lens of your eye. They’re also more common in older adults. But some children are born with them or get them from diabetes or childhood diseases.
  • Retinoblastoma : A rare cancer of the retina.


Watch Those Eyes

Kids with vision problems will show some similar behaviors. Most of the time, they squint. You child might be having trouble with her sight if she:

  • Complains about headaches or blurry vision
  • Closes one eye
  • Rubs her eyes
  • Complains about pain in one or both eyes
  • Has an eye that turns in, out, up, down, or wanders
  • Has eyes that cross or can't focus
  • Holds books really close to see the words

If you spot one of these symptoms, make an appointment with her pediatrician or an eye doctor. Getting a checkup right away can let the doctor find vision problems before they can affect her sight -- and school performance. It’s very important to watch your child, since many kids don’t know something is wrong!

Is It Time for Glasses?

Glasses are usually the solution for kids who are nearsighted, farsighted, or have astigmatism. To get your child fitted, see an eye specialist. Plastic frames and shatter-proof polycarbonate lenses are best for active kids.

Let your child pick her own frames -- it can help her feel involved. Make the process fun. If she hears negative comments about glasses, she probably won't want to wear them.

LASIK and other vision correction surgeries are generally not an option for kids younger than 18. Their prescription and eye growth haven’t stabilized. LASIK is used for children with severe vision problems that don't improve with glasses or contacts.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on June 13, 2017



Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York Presbyterian: "Warning Signs for Vision Problems."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Vision Problems in Children."

Nemours Foundation: "Your Child's Vision."

Children's Hospital Boston: "Vision Problems."

American Optometric Association: "Ready for School."

O'Keefe M. British Journal of Ophthalmology, January 2004.

Fecarotta C. Current Opinion in Ophthalmology, September 2010.

National Eye Institute: “Facts About Glaucoma.”

Children’s Hospital Boston: “Cataracts.”

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