Learn how to tell if your child needs glasses

How to Recognize Vision Problems in Children

Vision changes can be subtle, especially in children.

Some kids hide vision problems to avoid getting glasses. Although a back-to-school physical usually includes a brief eye exam, your child’s eyes can change during the year.

What Can Cause Vision Problems in Children?

Nearsightedness, also called myopia, happens when the shape of the eyeball changes. This causes light to focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it, so that things at a distance look blurry. Why this happens isn’t fully understood, though it may be inherited if one or both parents have myopia or other vision problems.

Nearsightedness is the most common cause of blurred vision symptoms in teens, and that’s why we created the Myopia Treatment Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Vision problems in children usually start between the ages of 6 and 12, so regular eye and vision care is important during the elementary school years. That’s why Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC created its Myopia Treatment Center.

How Do You Know If Your Child Needs Glasses?

Unless your child is eager to get glasses, he or she may not tell you about vision concerns. So, how do you know if your child needs glasses? Signs of myopia in kids include:

  • Holding books, tablets, or homework close to the face
  • Sitting too close to the TV
  • Squinting or closing one eye to read
  • Frequent headaches
  • Excess watering of the eye
  • Rubbing eyes

Worsening school or athletic performance, or withdrawal from those activities could indicate a vision problem. Asking to sit at the front of the classroom also may be a sign that your child has trouble seeing.

When to See an Eye Doctor

If your child is showing signs of nearsightedness, make an appointment with an eye doctor. It’s important to treat nearsightedness in children early so it doesn’t affect their school performance or interfere with hobbies and sports.

Most children get glasses first. Contacts are also safe for children to wear; it’s just a matter of whether you feel your child is ready for them.

For most people, vision continues to change between the ages of 6 and 20. Your children should have their vision checked annually, or more often if a child is having trouble seeing. With myopia in kids, changes can happen frequently and eventually stabilize as they age.

RELATED: What Your Eyes Can Say About Your Health

Protect Your Child’s Eye Health

You’ve probably heard that certain foods can protect your eyes, but more time spent outside also appears to help the sight of children. A recent study at Queensland University of Technology found that exposure to outdoor light for at least 60 minutes each day protected kids against getting or worsening myopia. Numerous other studies in the past few years have reached the same conclusion.

So what’s the takeaway? If you suspect your child may be developing nearsightedness, make an appointment at the Myopia Treatment Center at the UPMC Eye Center — and then send them outside to play.