The American Optometric Association reports that twenty-five percent of children have vision challenges and will need glasses prior to kindergarten. The typical diagnoses? Myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness).
What makes these conditions different? Should you be looking for signs in your child’s behavior to distinguish the two?
Photo by: Sharon Suh
Nearsightedness, or myopia, is a common condition where far away objects are blurry, but things are clear up close. This happens when the shape of your eye causes light rays to bend (or refract) incorrectly, focusing images in front of your retina instead of on your retina. Nearsightedness can develop gradually over time or sometimes rapidly, often worsening in adolescence. .
Signs of nearsightedness:
Sitting close to the TV or computer screen
Difficulty viewing distant objects
When Nearsightedness Becomes Dangerous
Though rare—occurring in only 3.2 to 6.6 percent in children—there are some cases in which myopia becomes an emergency due to retinal detachment. Call your doctor immediately if your child complains of seeing specks or spots in their field of vision (called floaters) or flashes of light.
The opposite of myopia is hyperopia or farsightedness. People with farsightedness can see objects farther away but up-close objects are blurry. Farsightedness tends to be present at birth and runs in families.
Signs of farsightedness:
Complaining of headaches, achy eyes or burning around the eyes
Holding objects farther away to view or read them
Which Is More Common?
Though farsightedness is a relatively common condition, it is far less common than nearsightedness. Since farsightedness is usually present at birth, the prevalence of the condition decreases with age. Fewer than 4 percent of children have farsightedness at age 1.
What About Astigmatism?
Astigmatism can cause blurred or distorted vision at various distances due to an imperfection in the curvature of the eye. Symptoms include frequent headaches, complaints of eye strain after reading, tilting head, constant squinting, closing one eye to see better or shielding eyes in the light. Like nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism can be treated with corrective lenses.
Seeking A Diagnosis
Scheduling an eye appointment for your child is the best way to determine whether she is suffering from nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. During this appointment, the doctor will test your child’s vision by having them read lines of letters on an eye chart booth up close and at a distance. They may also use various instruments and ask your child to look through several lenses to test for refractive errors.
Whether your child wears glasses or not, it’s important to schedule an annual eye exam to protect your child’s eye health.