How to recognize vision issues in young children

Posted on 2019-03-28

Vision issues can occur at any age.  While it’s easier to diagnose issues when children or teenagers are old enough to articulate them, it is much more difficult to pinpoint vision issues in young children who are not yet speaking.

That is the “Catch-22” — the sooner vision issues are diagnosed, the better the prognosis but, when it would be most helpful to diagnose eye issues, children are often not able to tell us what they are or are not seeing.

Fortunately, there are behavioral signs and physical clues that can signify vision issues in young children. Parents and guardians should be aware of these warning signs, in addition to  scheduling regular vision check-ups. Even though young children may not be aware of problems, doctors may be able to diagnose vision issues through their physical manifestations in the eye.

Behavioral signs

While a young child may not be able to articulate that they can’t see well or that they are in pain, they may display certain signs that, as a parent or guardian, you are able to recognize especially if the behaviors are repeated.

  • Rubbing one eye
  • Squinting
  • Turning their head to use a specific eye
  • Closing one eye to see
  • Hand-eye coordination not developing

If you start to suspect something, you can come up with creative ways to check. Evie’s mom covered her daughter’s eyes one at a time and when she became agitated her mom realized that Evie couldn’t see out of one eye.   We often recommend covering one eye and dangling a toy in front of the glow eye to see if the child tracks the object.

Physical clues

In addition to behavioral signs, eye conditions or diseases can present themselves through physical clues as well. Some of these are subtle and can be easily missed: as parents or guardians who interact with your children daily, you have the best chance of catching these subtle clues. One major physical sign of more than 20 eye conditions and diseases is “the Glow.” Medically known as leukocoria, this yellow-white flash is an abnormal reflection of light on the retina. “The Glow” often shows up in photos taken with flash photography. Other physical clues include:

  • Eye turning outwards or inwards
  • Eyes failing to track
  • Uncontrollable shaking or twitching in the eye
  • Cloudy or opaque pupils
  • Differently-sized eyes
  • Keyhole-shaped pupils

If you are noticing these symptoms or details, schedule an appointment with your doctor and bring up your concerns. Bring “Glow” photos with you to show the doctor if you can.  And remember, see “the Glow” once, be alert; see “the Glow” twice, take action!