There are so many things we need to think about when our babies are small: from sleeping to feeding and vaccinations. But what about their eyesight?
The routine six-month medical check with Hong Kong’s public system will offer a quick eye assessment with a doctor, but then the next appointment isn’t until the age of four.
But by the time our children reach kindergarten, one in 10 of them will suffer from eye problems such as short-sightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism, according to a study by Hong Kong’s Society for the Blind.
What is Normal Eye Development?
At birth, your baby’s vision isn’t fully developed and they can only focus on objects that are 8 to 10 inches from their face.
In their first few months they are learning to tell the difference between objects and track objects with their eyes, with both eyes beginning to work together.
During this stage, your infant’s eyes may wander independently or cross—but this is considered normal.
At around three months, your baby will be following objects with their eyes and starting to reach for things.
After the initial six-month check-up we should be taking our little ones to regular optometrist appointments from the age of three.
It’s only around the age of five months that your baby will be able to start viewing the world in multiple dimensions and understanding depth—ie. judging whether objects are near or far.
You will notice them grasping for toys and perhaps showing a preference for colors as their color vision develops. They should have also developed color vision by this age.
Between nine and 12 months, your baby will be in the crawling or early walking stages, further progressing their hand-eye co-ordination, ability to grasp objects and depth perception.
By this age, if you suspect any development issues could be tied to vision, it’s worth getting your concerns checked out—sooner rather than later.
Catch it Early
It’s vital to spot vision issues early on as these can affect our children’s learning ability, performance and even self-confidence.
If picked up quickly, many eye problems can be treated effectively at a young age.
According to the Blind Society’s advice, after the initial six-month check-up we should be taking our little ones to regular optometrist appointments from the age of three—or younger if there is a history of eyesight problems in the family.
By the time our children reach kindergarten, one in 10 of them will suffer from eye problems.
As our children grow, it’s important we pay close attention to their eyesight too, as the parents are most likely to spot any issues.
If they tilt their heads to the side to read, constantly squint, or move in closer to books or screens, then now is the time to see a specialist.
What Does a Child’s Eye Exam Involve?
During an eye examination, a doctor will shine a small light into the eyes of your child to check the pupils and their alignment.
They will also use a special scope to check for abnormalities in the back of the eye. Kids above the age of three will be shown an eye chart to check their vision.
Common Eye Problems in Children
Here are some of the most common eye problems worth being aware of:
Where the vision in one eye is reduced, because the eye and the brain are not working together.
The condition is also known as lazy eye. It usually applies to just one eye, but can affect both.
Lazy eyes develop during infancy or early childhood, but if diagnosed and treated promptly, then reduced vision can be avoided. The problem becomes harder to correct after the age of 10.
How to Spot It: Look out for an eye that wanders inward or outward or two eyes that appear not to work together; squinting, double vision, poor depth perception or a tendency to bump into things.
A genetic problem that affects your ability to distinguish colors. The condition is measured on a spectrum, but the most common problems are with red and green.
There is no cure, but early diagnosis will allow us to change the way we teach children to recognize color.
Most people adapt to the condition, but may see a decrease in their visual acuity and feel uncomfortable in brighter environments.
How to Spot It: It can be hard to know whether your child is color blind or just slower at learning their colors. By kindergarten age, you will have more of an idea and an optometrist is the best person to test this (although online tests can give you an indication).
myopia (nearsightedness), where distant objects appear blurred
hyperopia (far-sightedness), where close objects are out of focus
- astigmatism, where vision is blurred for both close and distant objects
Refractive errors are the cause of most blurred version in kids and is caused by the way light reflects off the shape of the eye.
Glasses and contact lenses are the most common ways to correct the issue, but refractive surgery which permanently changes the shape of the cornea is more now widely available.
How to Spot It: Common symptoms to watch for include blurred vision, double vision, headache and squinting.
Children will often not know they have a vision problem or don’t know how to express it—so you could find this manifests in other ways such as frequent complaints (like headaches) or even anger outbursts.
The main thing is to be on the lookout for symptoms and know that there are experts out there to help you diagnose and treat any issues.