Does your child have an eye condition?

Five symptoms of common eye problems in children and when to seek help

By Dr. Giovanna Olivares, OD, FAAO; Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Director & Staff Writer

As a parent, it's part of your job description to ensure that your child is healthy in every way possible, and that includes their eye health. A child’s eyes are constantly in use, teaching them about the world around them through reading, writing, and more. In fact, 80% of what children learn in their first 12 years comes from visuals. Which is a challenge, because it’s estimated that 1 in 4 children in the U.S. have a vision issue that requires treatment. At home, it can be difficult to recognize eye problems in children since they may not always express their concerns and the screenings at school can miss up to 75% of children with vision problems. That’s why it’s important to be vigilant and know what signs to look for so you can take the necessary steps to protect your child's vision.

Here are some common eye problems in children and when to seek help:

1. Crossed or turned eyes.

Eyes that are not aligned could be a sign of a problem called strabismus. This condition can cause vision problems, and early intervention is essential. Seek help from an eye doctor as soon as you can.

2. Squinting

If your child is squinting or complaining of blurry vision, they may have nearsightedness or farsightedness. An eye exam can determine if your child needs glasses.

3. Watery or red eyes

Children who persistently show watery or red eyes may be a sign of allergies, infection, or inflammation. It's important to see an eye care professional if this occurs.

4. Light sensitivity

Sensitivity to light may be a sign of an underlying eye condition, such as iritis, or uveitis. This condition can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. Seek help immediately.

5. Poor school performance

If your child is struggling in school, it may be due to an undiagnosed vision problem. A comprehensive eye exam can determine if your child needs glasses or other treatment.

It's important to schedule regular eye exams for your child, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms. The American Optometric Association recommends that children have their first eye exam between six and 12 months of age, then again between three and five years old, and before starting first grade. Afterward, regular exams should occur every one to two years. Don't hesitate to seek help if you notice any signs of eye problems in your child. Early detection and treatment can prevent vision problems from becoming more severe.

Read about other conditions

About the author

Giovanna E. Olivares, OD, FAAO

About the author

Giovanna E. Olivares, OD, FAAO is the Global Director, Specialty Platforms Research & Development, at Johnson & Johnson Vision Care (JJVC). In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the strategy, design, and development of new products to support the company’s global Astigmatism and Presbyopia platforms. In 2017 under her leadership, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, launched ACUVUE® Oasys 1-Day with Hydroluxe® for Astigmatism and ACUVUE® Vita® for Astigmatism to meet our patients’ needs. In 2021, her team launched ACUVUE® OASYS MULTIFOCAL with PUPIL OPTIMIZED design. Recently in September, 2022, she launched ACUVUE® OASYS MAX MULTIFOCAL for presbyopia patients. Dr. Olivares joined Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. in 2004 as Sr. Manager of the R&D Design Clinical Research Group. In this role, she led a multidisciplinary group including Optometrists, Ophthalmologists, Vision Scientists, and Biostatisticians responsible for the development of new innovative contact lens products and clinical methodology. Under her leadership, the group launched several brands including ACUVUE® ADVANCE for ASTIGMATISM, ACUVUE® OASYS for ASTIGMATISM, and 1-DAY ACUVUE® MOIST for ASTIGMATISM. Under her leadership, the first validated patient questionnaire for JJVC was developed, CLUE (Contact Lens User Experience). In 2010, she was appointed to the position of Director of Professional Education, responsible for developing innovative educational programs across the spectrum of students, eye care professionals, Professional Affairs Consultants, and the company’s Sales & Marketing organizations. Prior to joining Johnson & Johnson Vision, Dr. Olivares served as the Director of Clinical and Professional Development for Unilens Corp. USA, where she developed contact lens designs for presbyopia. Additionally, she has practiced in an ophthalmology practice, private optometric practice, retail optometry, and as a technical medical consultant at TLC, a center for LASIK surgery. Dr. Olivares received her BS degree from the University of Rochester and her OD degree from the State University of New York (SUNY). She subsequently completed a post-doctoral fellowship in Ocular Disease management at the SUNY College of Optometry. After her fellowship, she joined the SUNY faculty as an Assistant Professor with clinical and didactic teaching responsibilities in the areas of contact lenses, ocular disease, pediatric/binocular vision, and primary care. Dr. Olivares is a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, has authored numerous scientific articles and has lectured internationally on contact lens technology and fitting for success.

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