There are many eye conditions and diseases that can affect a child’s vision. Healthy eyes and vision are a critical part of a child’s development and early diagnosis and treatment will be critical in maintaining their eye health. Some of the more common focus and alignment disorders and eye diseases are listed below. Children should have their eyes examined regularly to ensure early detection and treatment. It is important to ensure that their eyes are examined regularly because many eye problems and diseases can be detected and treated early.

Children may be diagnosed with refraction errors including myopia (near-sightedness), hypermetropia (far-sightedness) or astigmatism (blurred vision). Each of these can be corrected with glasses, which can be diagnosed and treated by an eye doctor.

Amblyopia is another eye problem that refers to poor vision in an eye that has not developed normal sight. The condition is sometimes call “lazy eye” and it occurs when visual acuity is better in one eye over the other. Amblyopia can be cause by Strabismus (misaligned eyes). In this case, one eye may look straight ahead while the other turns in, out, up or down. Interestingly, the brain turns off signals from the misaligned eye to avoid double vision.

Parents are often the first to notice focus or alignment problems in the eyes in a young child, but often a teacher will be the first to notice signs that something is not quite right with their vision. There are a number of symptoms or signs that you should look for that could indicate that your child is experiencing eye problems:

1. Clumsiness due to a failure to notice new things around him or her.
2. A persistent need to squint when the light is not bright.
3. Rubbing eyes when not tired.
4. Excessive tearing that is unrelated to crying.
5. Recurring eye infections, swollen eyelids or sties.
6. Eyes that have bulging appearance, bounce or move in rapid regular movements.
7. Is constantly tilting his or her head to one side in order to see better.
8. Needs to cover one eye frequently in order to see better.
9. Holds books or toys too close or sits very close to the television.
10. Eyes that are mismatched, crossed or don’t move synchronistically.

If you notice any of these signs it could indicate eye problems and your child should immediately have their eyes examined. Early diagnosis and treatment are critical to maintaining your child’s eye health. When eye problems are caught early, the condition can often be reversed or at least treated to prevent learning difficulties or progression of a serious disorder.

The vast majority of vision problems are a result of imperfect formation of the eye’s refractive system—or in other words, when the shape of the eye prevents light from focusing directly on the retina. The length of the eyeball or an aging of the lens can cause refractive errors. In order to see clearly, there are a number of eye structures that must develop properly so that we don’t develop a need for vision correction. Most people have one or more of these conditions in varying degrees.

We are able to “see” when light rays are refracted as they pass through the cornea and the lens. The light is then focused on the retina. The retina converts the light-rays into messages that are sent through the optic nerve to the brain. There are many ways that even the slightest imperfection in the development of an eye can result in a condition known as ametropia, which simply means that the eye’s refractive system isn’t focusing light at the proper point. The most common types of refractive errors are near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia.

Myopia (near-sightedness) is the most common vision problem. The condition causes people where objects up close appear clearly, while objects far away appear either not as clearly or blurry. The cause of this condition is that either the eyeball is too long or the lens/cornea optical system of the eye is too strong.

Hyperopia (Far-sightedness) is the second most common type of refractive error. Far-sightedness is when distant objects are seen more clearly than objects that are near, but interestingly enough, people experience this condition differently. Some people may not notice any problems with their vision, when they are young, while others will experience significant blurriness for objects at any distance, near or far. In contrast to Myopia, the cause of this condition is that either the eyeball is too short or the lens/cornea optical system of the eye is too weak.

Other common vision problems include Astigmatism and Presbyopia. Astigmatism is a condition where the person has an irregularly shaped cornea (more like a football), which causes images to be blurry and stretched out. Presbyopia, in contrast, is simply a result of the normal aging process where there is a gradual loss of flexibility of the crystalline lens and its ability to produce clear images.

An eye care professional can diagnose refractive errors or other vision problem during a comprehensive dilated eye examination. Refractive errors can be corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or laser surgery.

Most of us have experienced temporary eye problems at one time or another. These problems might include itching, blurriness or fatigue. These types of eye problems are typically short live, and will likely go away on their own without complications. However, sudden eye problems or those that last for more than a couple of days should be checked by your eye doctor.

Eye twitching, eyelid ticks and spasms are pretty common. Referred to as Blepharospasm, an involuntary twitching of the muscles in the eyelid is generally caused by stress or fatigue. Most eye twitches come and go, although if you are experiencing long term stress then they might last for weeks or months. Sudden-onset eyelid twitching is benign, but it can also be difficult to treat. A good night’s sleep is one of the easiest solutions to correcting the problem, but if it continues you should see a doctor. Other triggers include eye strain, caffeine, alcohol, dry eyes, nutritional imbalances and allergies.

Eye floaters are specks or dots that you are seeing before your eyes. These are quite common and typically created when a tiny clump or strand forms within the vitreous of the eye. So, when you move your eyes to look at the floater, it also moves because it is situated within the vitreous. Most people experience floaters, and although annoying, the are usually quite harmless. There isn’t a treatment for floaters, but if you suddenly notice a clump of floaters or flashing lights you should visit an eye doctor immediately to ensure the internal surfaces of your eye are healthy.

Watery eyes is another common eye problem, which can be due to a number of factors. You might have a low-grade infection of the eyelids, for example, that causes irritation upon awakening or subsequent tear production. Or you might have dry eyes, which seems contradictory, but in fact dryness of the eyes stimulates tear production. Other causes might be a tear drainage blockage, a mild allergic reaction or foreign material in the eye. Whatever the cause might be, it is definitely worthwhile to visit your eye doctor to determine the cause and get treatment like eye drops to lubricate the eyes.

Most common eye problems like sore and tired eyes, blurred vision, headaches, twitching eyelids and watery or dry eyes will typically remedy themselves. However, if any of these eye problems seem to be recurring or getting worse then you should definitely see an eye doctor to rule out any serious disorders or find a solution.

Genetics definitely play a role in many types of eye diseases and problems. On the upside, genetic strategies are leading to promising treatments for some conditions, including mutations associated with many ocular diseases including glaucoma, cataracts, strabismus, corneal dystrophies and forms of retinal degenerations causing blindness. If you know of family members that have certain eye diseases or disorders, it is vital that you learn more about the diseases so you can more easily spot any signs or symptoms.

Knowledge about genetic eye diseases has increased dramatically during the last twenty years. Although there are no global statistics which let us know the extent of the burden of visual impairment from genetic causes, there is some indication that genetic eye pathology represents a significant percentage of the causes of blindness in industrialised countries. More than 60 per cent of blindness in infants is caused by inherited eye diseases. Many patients who have a family history of certain types of eye diseases like strabismus (ocular misalignment), amblyopia (lazy eye) and refraction errors such as myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness) and astigmatism will likely develop them, but genetic ophthalmologists are working to identify the responsible genes.

For example, many people are unaware that cataracts can be inherited. A cataract, which is essentially the clouding of the eye’s clear lens, will cause blurriness and hazy vision. Gone untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. Although cataracts commonly develop in the aging process, they can also be caused by injury, certain diseases, medications, and genetic inheritance.

Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration are the two leading causes of blindness in adults and children. Both diseases appear to be inherited in a large percentage of cases. Thankfully, genetic researchers are successfully mapping several genes for glaucoma and are now in the early stages of identifying the genes connected to macular degeneration. There is also progress with identifying the genes associated with other degenerative disease of the retina that lead to night blindness or gradual vision loss.

If you have a history of one of the eye diseases outlined above or have noticed any symptoms or potential signs, then be sure to make an appointment to visit your eye doctor right away.