6 signs your child needs to see an eye doctor

One day I met a woman and her daughter on the playground. I complimented the 4-year-old girl on her adorable eyeglasses. The mother tearfully disclosed that they were new, and then she went onto explain that her little girl had suddenly become quiet and shy a few months earlier. Both at home and at school, the people around her noticed she was different: more cautious, less outgoing and less confident. After months of trying to figure out what was wrong, the mother took her daughter to see an eye doctor, who quickly identified that she needed eyeglasses. Within days of wearing her glasses, the child had returned to her confident, outgoing self. It was a change in vision all along, one that she was too young to express verbally.

Children, especially aged four and younger, won’t be able to tell you about a change in vision. As a parent, being observant and asking for a vision screen while at the pediatrician’s office are great ways to make sure you catch any change in vision. Always trust your instincts when it comes to your child’s eyes. After all, no one knows them better than you!

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety month, and being married to an ophthalmologist, this is something that is near and dear to our family. Bundoo has reported on several eye health topics such as retinoblastoma, choosing sunglasses for your child, nasolacrimal duct obstruction, and vision screening in infants, just to name a few.

But parents often ask me how they will know if their child is having trouble seeing. As primary caregivers of our babies and toddlers, we look into their eyes more than anyone else and are usually the first to notice if anything is wrong. Here is a brief, yet non-comprehensive, list of a few reasons you might want to see an eye doctor.

  1. Look to see if your child’s eyes appear to gaze in different directions, appear crossed or “lazy.” This could indicate strabismus.
  2. If you have a family history of retinoblastoma—a rare ocular eye tumor—you’ll need to see a specialist.
  3. Talk to your doctor if your infant cannot follow an object across their line of vision with their eyes “tracking” by three months of age.
  4. Any toddler who fails a vision screen at their doctor’s office should follow up with an ophthalmologist.
  5. You should see a specialist for an eye that appears “cloudy” or one that waters or has discharge that does not stop after treatment with drops by a pediatrician.
  6. Talk to your doctor if your older child is unable to read at their grade level.

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About Dr. Sara Connolly, Board Certified Pediatrician

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida. She completed her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where she served as Chief Resident. She has a passion for child advocacy and has worked on the local, state, and national level to increase access to care for children. Her interests include nutrition, breastfeeding, and parenting skills.


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