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

Medically Reviewed by Whitney Seltman, OD on July 10, 2023
3 min read

You've noticed your child squints. Do they 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.

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

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

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

They have trouble seeing things far away.

It might be: Nearsightedness, or myopia.

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

They can’t things close up.

It might be:Farsightedness, or hyperopia.

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

Their vision is blurry.

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

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

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

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.

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

  • Complains about headaches or blurry vision
  • Closes one eye
  • Rub their 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 their pediatrician or an eye doctor. Getting a checkup right away can let the doctor find vision problems before they can affect their sight -- and school performance. It’s very important to watch your child, since many kids don’t know something is wrong!

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 their own frames -- it can help them feel involved. Make the process fun. If they hear negative comments about glasses, they 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. In rare cases, LASIK is used for children with severe vision problems that don't improve with glasses or contacts.