Diseases & Conditions
Eye Disorders in Children
Congenital glaucoma and congenital cataracts (see Other Birth Defects ) are uncommon disorders that can affect newborns and young children. Disorders that most often blur vision, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism (all considered refractive errors), do occur in children and require prompt treatment to prevent amblyopia (a decrease in vision). Amblyopia affects about 2 to 3% of children and almost always develops before age 2. Misalignment of the eyes (strabismus) occurs in about 3% of children and can also cause loss of vision due to amblyopia.
In addition to performing a routine eye examination, doctors examine children at the earliest possible age for strabismus and refractive errors, which can cause amblyopia. Screening for this kind of visual problem should start by age 3 and continue during schooling.
Refractive Errors in Children
Refractive errors, such as nearsightedness (inability to see distant objects clearly), farsightedness (inability to see close objects clearly), and astigmatism (an irregular curvature of the focusing surfaces of the eye---see Symptoms and Diagnosis of Eye Disorders: Refractive Error ) are conditions that result in blurring of vision. Blurring occurs because the eye cannot focus images precisely on the retina. If uncorrected, a decrease in vision (amblyopia) may develop.
Children are often not able to make their vision problems known. Sometimes a teacher or school nurse is the first to detect a vision problem.
All children should be screened for refractive errors and other eye problems. Children as young as 3 or 4 years old can view charts with pictures, figures, or letters used to test vision. Vision is tested in each eye separately to detect loss of vision that affects only one eye. The eye not being tested is covered.
Diagnosis is established by an eye examination and measurement of the refractive error. In young children, refractive errors are generally treated with eyeglasses. In older, more responsible children, refractive errors can be corrected with contact lenses. However, inadequate care and cleaning of contact lenses can lead to eye infections.
Source: The Merck Manual Home Edition