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3 Common Conditions That Could Affect Your Child's Vision

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Child at Eye Test
Just as adults require routine vision exams to maintain optimal eye health and detect possible issues, school-aged children also need to get routine eye and vision exams. Although yearly exams are typically adequate, if you suspect your child may have a vision problem or issue affecting the eyes, it's best to see an optometrist. Here are three common childhood eye concerns.

1. Conjunctivitis

This condition may affect one or both eyes, and although people of all ages may contract it, it is common among school-aged children. Conjunctivitis is commonly referred to as pink eye, as it tends to make the white of the affected eye look red or pink, due to inflamed blood vessels. It is commonly caused by an infection, either bacterial or viral. Pink eye may also develop due to allergies or hay fever.

Symptoms of conjunctivitis include eye redness, watery eyes, and crusty discharge on the eyelids. Your child may also have itchy eyes. He or she should avoid rubbing the eyes, as it may worsen the condition. Frequent handwashing is essential to prevent the infection from spreading.

Although pink eye will not typically cause permanent eye damage, it may cause complications such as blurred vision if left untreated. Because bacterial or viral conjunctivitis is highly contagious, your child may pass the infection to others. If the eye doctor suspects a child has a bacterial infection of the eye, they may prescribe antibiotics. Other common treatments include eye washes or medicated eye drops.

2. Sports Injury to the Eye

Sports-related injuries affecting the eyes are commonplace among school-aged children. According to experts, eye injuries are a leading cause of vision loss in children. Because many children participate in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, eye protection is a must.

Consider getting special eye goggles, which often include polycarbonate lenses. The lenses are made to withstand impact, so they will not be likely to shatter. Without the protection, your child could experience a fractured eye socket or even a detached retina, a condition that will require surgery to prevent blindness. 

Goggles are not the only way to protect your child's eyes though. Face guards may also provide protection from eye injuries. Just make sure your child tries on any type of eye protection before purchase to ensure it fits properly.

3. Amblyopia (Also Known as Lazy Eye)

If the eye doctor informs you that your child has lazy eye, what does this mean? In general, amblyopia occurs when one eye does not develop normally. It means the normal eye has better focus and clarity, while the lazy eye is blurry. Also, if the eyes do not align properly, lazy eye may be a result. Left untreated, this condition may cause vision issues, leading to learning difficulties in school.

The eye doctor will test the child and note whether the eyes are properly aligned and both eyes move correctly. If they detect a problem, they may perform further testing. When amblyopia is confirmed, your eye doctor will likely recommend vision therapy. The goal is to train the brain to begin using the lazy eye so that it will learn to focus better.

As part of the therapy, a child diagnosed with lazy eye may wear an eye patch over the unaffected eye. This patch will force the brain to use the weaker eye, thus strengthening that eye in the process. The child may need to wear the eye patch for several weeks, for a specified number of hours throughout the day.

During the therapy, you may need to give your child special eye drops (atropine). You'll place these drops in the stronger eye to blur it slightly. Like an eye patch, this technique forces the lazy eye to focus more. After your child has used the eye drops or patch for a while, a vision specialist will re-examine them to determine if the lazy eye has become stronger.
As a final consideration, never dismiss any signs you notice that point to a potential vision issue. Schedule routine eye exams and prevent problems before they escalate.