Vision is arguably the most valuable of our five senses, and when it comes to young people with developing eyesight, it can be extremely difficult to determine a problem with these little ones who can’t communicate with us very well. But as parents, we can become the vigilantes for potential vision problems with infants and toddlers and nip them in the bud before they become a threat to their eyesight in the future.
While there’s a vast number of potential vision problems facing today’s youngsters, there’s some ways we should be paying particularly close attention to when it comes to this early stage of their development. Here’s what we’re calling the A-B-C’s of eye health for infants:
By the time an infant reaches four to six months of age, their eyes should become stable and after that, if they don’t appear properly aligned, they should be taken to see an opthalmologist immediately. They could appear slightly crossed, or otherwise misaligned, a condition known as strabismus, which affects about 4% of the population.
If one eye veers to the side, sometimes referred to as a “lazy eye,” a medical term known as amblyopia can occur. With both amblyopia and strabismus, the eyes can work independent of each other and the brain will favor the stronger of the two. Because of the way our brains process images, if these conditions aren’t corrected early on, it could lead to a permanent loss of vision.
Bringing it in
Infants and toddlers will naturally reach for objects and bring them in for a closer look, but when it’s too close, just inches from their eyes, this could be a cause for concern. If a little one consistently brings things in for inspection extremely close to their eyes, this could be a sign of myopia, more commonly known as nearsightedness.
As a matter of fact, recent studies by the NEI (National Eye Institute) have shown that myopia is becoming more commonplace, growing from about 25% in the early 70’s to over 40% after the turn of the century. Although the exact cause of this staggering rise is unknown, many doctors believe it is due to the increased use of screens, smartphones and other handheld devices.
Many people believe that cataracts are only associated with our aging population, but according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, congenital cataracts, those cases found in infants and young children, are responsible for as much as 20% of blindness in children worldwide. Thankfully rates of contracting this condition in the United States are much lower at only about 0.4% of births, but it’s still a concern.
Check your infant and children’s eyes regularly for any signs of abnormalities, especially cloudiness, gray or white areas in and around the pupil, which we all know is normally black. Eye doctors also recommend examining your children’s eyes in photographs, which could reveal differences that don’t appear to our naked eye.
The majority of vision problems are correctable, especially when detected early. Eye exams are recommended for children at six months of age and then again before they enter school, usually at around 5 to 6 years old. This leaves a tremendous gap that we as parents should be filling with our own vigilance and perception.
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.