As a parent watching your child grow and develop, it's important to be on the lookout for signs of developmental problems and delays. Vision problems in children are easier to overlook than you might think. They may not have the language to explain how what they're seeing is different than what you're seeing, and they may not even realize that there's anything unusual about their vision. Take a look at some of the vision problems that may be difficult to recognize, and find out how you can help your child if you spot signs of them.
You've probably heard of color blindness. The most common form of the condition affects 8 percent of males and only about .5 percent of females. Despite the name, most people who suffer from color blindness can see some colors. Often, it's only a few colors that are affected, like red and green or blue and yellow. The disorder can range from not being able to identify the affected colors at all to simply having difficulty identifying shades of the affected colors. Only the most severe form of color blindness leaves the viewer with a total absence of color.
Because color blindness is an inherited condition, you should have your child tested for it if you or any members of your family have the condition. You should also have your child tested if you notice that they have difficulty identifying or distinguishing between colors – while it's normal for children to mix up their colors when they're first learning the names, if they're still having trouble when they approach school age, it may be a sign of trouble. An eye doctor can test for color blindness with special charts during a routine eye exam. Color blindness isn't curable, but in many cases, it can be treated with special lenses and visual aids.
Stereoblindness is a vision disorder that is characterized by an inability to see depth. Essentially, people with stereoblindness don't see the world in 3-D, they see it in 2-D. People who are blind in one eye are stereoblind, because they lack the binocular vision that people with two working eyes are supposed to have. However, people with two functioning eyes can also be stereoblind if their eyes don't work together properly. In this case, the stereoblindness can be corrected with vision therapy.
3-D movies can be a good test of whether or not your child is stereoblind. Children suffering from stereoblindness may perceive the 3-D images as blurry or smeared, rather than seeing them pop out of the screen. Interestingly, 3-D movies may also be used as part of the vision therapy your child receives to correct the condition – there has been at least one case of stereoblindness that was spontaneously corrected after viewing a movie in 3-D, and researchers are looking for ways to incorporate this into vision therapy.
Convergence insufficiency is a learning-related visual disorder. Like stereoblindness, it's a condition that can occur when the eyes do not work together properly, often because of a weakness in the muscles operating one or both of the eyes. Often, convergence insufficiency isn't diagnosed until a child begins struggling in school. The symptoms vary from person to person, but they may include headaches and eyestrain, double vision, and trouble with concentrating. Children who suffer from convergence insufficiency may squint or close one eye when trying to focus and may complain that the words blur or move around on the page while reading.
Routine eye exams are not always enough to detect convergence insufficiency, but your child's eye doctor can diagnose the problem by taking a detailed medical history and asking your child to perform focus tests. Convergence insufficiency can be treated in several ways. Vision therapy is the most common treatment. Vision therapy for convergence insufficiency includes manual exercises, like focusing on the tip of a pencil while slowly moving it closer to the face, as well as screen-based exercises performed on a computer. Your child's doctor may also recommend special glasses with lenses that contain prisms to help the eyes focus properly. In extreme cases, surgery to tighten the eye muscles may be recommended.
Routine eye exams are recommended for all children, and you shouldn't hesitate to schedule an appointment with an eye doctor if you notice signs of vision difficulties. Write down any symptoms you've noticed so that you can be sure to describe them to the doctor in detail.
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