Does My Child Have a Vision Problem? – Sign and Symptoms of Vision Impairment in Children

In the first year of life, the baby’s eyes should reach their maximum visual acuity (6/6) for color vision and for depth vision (the ability to see in 3D and perceive distant objects). Unfortunately, this is not always the case and some children suffer from visual impairment.

What are the signs of vision problem in children?

There a few common types of vision impairment in children. You should be aware of the signs and symptoms that may indicate your child has a problem, so you can treat it. The earlier the treatment begins, the greater are the prospects of success.

Amblyopia, lazy eye

Amblyopia is an impaired eye-brain connection resulting in decreased vision in one eye. It is estimated that 3% of the general population suffers from amblyopia.

Signs and symptoms:

It’s not easy to diagnose amblyopia since the other eye sees well and may, therefore, compensate for the lazy one.

Children with a lazy eye will have impaired spatial vision. They will not be able to discern different patterns from a distance as well as children with normal vision. Their clarity of vision will be lower especially when it comes to sensitivity to visual contrasts. Depth perception will also be much lower since it requires the simultaneous operation of both eyes.


Those who suffer from presbyopia will find it hard to focus on close objects. This condition is more common among people after 40, yet children may also suffer from it.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Repeated complaints about headaches while reading or doing homework or after watching TV.
  • The eyes do not aligned with one another (strabismus). One of the eyes tends to incline inwards, outwards or upwards.
  • Shrinking the eyes while reading.


The opposite of presbyopia, myopia is the inability to see distant objects clearly.

Signs and symptoms:

  • A baby who suffers from myopia will tend to move toys closer to his eyes.
  • Toddlers will frequently run into objects and fall.
  • Children will tend to sit close to TV/computer screens and may complain about headaches and burning sensation in the eyes after short viewing.
  • Children will also encounter various difficulties at school, especially in writing (spelling mistakes) and copying from the board. Their academic performances will be mediocre at best.


Astigmatism is characterized by blurred vision caused by distortion in the structure of the cornea and the curvature of the lens in the inner eye.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulties in focusing on close and far objects.
  • Chronic tiredness and repeated headaches especially after reading or watching TV.
  • Burning sensation in the eye even if the child already has glasses.

Allergic conjunctivitis

Allergic conjunctivitis is inflammation of the eyes as a result of exposure to allergens. Around 30% of all children suffer from it in varying degrees of severity. In many cases, the symptoms are seasonal and they may appear with nasal mucosa and congestion (rhinitis).

Signs and symptoms:

  • Redness and swelling of the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye).
  • Tearing and itching.
  • Painful feeling of sand in the eyes.
  • Frequent blinking.
  • Symptoms worsen in dry and hot weather.
  • In rare cases, intolerance to light (photophobia)

At what age should your child have his eyes examined?

Your child’s vision should be checked a couple of times at different ages to make sure he doesn’t have any problem that is not treated properly.

It is recommended taking your baby to an ophthalmologist for an initial examination 6-8 months after birth. When your child is 3 years old, you should take him to an optometrist to check his visual acuity to negate Amblyopia.

At the age of 6 – 7, right before going to school, you should visit the optometrist again to check whether your child has a problem focusing on close objects (presbyopia). This is highly important as he is about to start reading and writing. Finally, at the ages of 7 – 12, ophthalmologists recommend a regular eye examination once a year.


Article was contributed by Carla Reid, an optician from Charlotte, NC