Children "At Risk"

The most common problems in vision are amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus. Lazy eye is an eye condition in which the child becomes accustomed to not using one eye. Lazy eye shows no visible signs, which makes it difficult for parents to notice that an eye problem exists. Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes, with an eye turning in or out, occasionally or constantly.

You can check how your child uses his or her eyes even before a formal test can be done. When your baby is playing and is intently looking at a toy (preferably holding it with both hands), cover the right eye by bringing your hand or two fingers in the front of the eye without touching the child. If your baby continues to look at the toy with the left eye, the vision in the left eye is probably fine. Wait a short while, then cover the left eye and observe whether the child continues to look at the toy as before (This is shown in the video "Vision in Pre-School Years".). If vision in one eye is notably worse than in the other eye, your child will respond by tilting the head or by pushing your fingers away in order to see with the better eye. If you have any doubts about your child's vision, consult your paediatrician and your eye doctor.

Certain children are at higher than average risk for problems in their early visual development. It's advisable to have these children examined by a paediatric eye doctor at the age of 7-9 months - even if the infant's eyes appear straight and communication and interaction are age-appropriate. Ask your eye doctor whether your child is at risk for vision problems.

Infants born in families with history of amblyopia, strabismus or high refractive errors have an increased risk of having inherited the condition that has caused amblyopia or strabismus in the other members of the family. Amblyopia and strabismus are often related to certain refractive errors and thus an examination of the refractive state may give important information whether the early development needs to be followed more carefully than in other infants and children.

Other infants and children who need closer follow-up are all those with problems in motor or intellectual development, Cerebral Palsy and Down syndrome being the most common conditions related to deviations from normal development. These infants should be examined quite early, at the age of 3-4 months if there is any delay in their early interaction with their parents.

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Edited in July 2009.