From birth, babies can distinguish light and dark, shapes, and patterns. When they are quiet and alert, babies can focus on objects 18 to 45 cm (7 to 18 in.) away for brief periods of time. Babies prefer to look at faces rather than objects, especially their mother’s eyes.
It is not uncommon for your baby’s eyes to “wander” or cross independently at times. This is normal in the first three months until he develops proper eye co-ordination. Constant eye wandering should not be ignored.
Some important points about your baby’s vision:
- Children with a family history of a lazy or crossed eye are at a higher risk
- of having an eye problem.
- Early treatment of turned eye or decreased vision is very important for sight.
- If you have any concerns about your baby’s vision, contact your health care practitioner.
Many people don’t realize that vision is learned in early childhood, and that any problems in the clearness of vision for either eye can lead to permanent vision loss if it’s not treated early. At about eight to 12 months of age your child will start to develop hand-eye coordination and will be able to tell how close or far away things are. At about this time your toddler may be crawling and exploring freely, reaching for and touching things, and playing games like “peek-a-boo” and “patty cake”.
Vision test for toddlers do not involve the alphabet letters and therefore a child does not need to be able to read. The eye doctor may use special charts with pictures to test vision. Eye test can be done on children who are not talking.
Many children do not know that they have a vision problem. Changes in a child’s vision happen very slowly. A child may think that everyone else sees the same way, especially if a child develops nearsightedness (myopia) and faraway objects appear blurry. Some problems can end in permanent vision damage if not corrected early. These include:
Crossed eyes (strabismus) or the eye muscles point one or both eyes in the wrong direction.
Lazy eye (amblyopia) or the vision in one eye is weaker than the other. The child’s brain ignores the weak eye and uses the strong eye to see. If untreated, the child’s brain develops a clear picture in the good eye and a blurry picture in the weak eye. This can result in permanent problems that cannot be treated.
Vision problems often have a family history. If you know of vision or eye problems in your family, your child’s eyes should be examined by an eye doctor.
Your child should see a family doctor or eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) if you notice any of these signs or symptoms.
- Blurred vision
- Red, itchy or watery eyes
- Squinting, rubbing the eyes, or excessive blinking
- Covering or closing one eye
- Holding objects too close
- Reading items or watching television very closely
- Avoiding activities needing distance vision
- Poor performance in school
- Lack of coordination or clumsiness in physical activities
The a-b-See brochure, Your child’s eye health, offers parents tips on detecting symptoms of visual disorders and diseases. Some eye conditions, however, don’t have obvious symptoms. A visit to your eye doctor for a thorough eye exam is the only way to know for sure. Children should have their eyes examined even if there is no family history of eye problems.
For children under the age of 19, an eye exam is recommended every year and is covered by the government of BC. For more information contact an eye doctor in your community or view the British Columbia Association of Optometrist website.