Does your child need eye glasses or contact lenses? Approximately 14 million Americans aged 12 and up are visually impaired, and 11 million of them don’t correct the problem. Here are the warning signs you should look for and what to do if your child can’t (or even can) see clearly.


Warning Signs


From the ages of 2 to 5, a child will still be developing visual abilities. However, you can notice visual impairments even at this early stage. Crossed eyes or lazy eye are the most common problems at this young age. If one or both eyes turn either inwards or outwards, crossed eyes or strabismus could be the culprit. Crossed eyes can lead to lazy eye or amblyopia, which is unclear vision in one eye.


If your child has trouble recognizing shapes, colors, numbers, or letters, you may want to see an eye doctor. It could indicate vision impairment. Squinting, tilting their head, sitting too close to the television, or holding a book too close are also telltale signs that your little one may need an eye exam. Even sensitivity to light, frequent eye rubbing, poor eye-hand-body coordination, short attention span, or refusal to do certain detailed activities could indicate a problem.


In addition to these problems, an older child may complain of frequent headaches, nausea, or eye pain. They may also have trouble reading or concentrating on schoolwork. Clumsiness, such as bumping into things, or excessive tearing can also be a sign that your child should see an optometrist.


Next Steps


If you notice that your child is having any of these warning signs, your next step will be to visit an eye clinic. If you see a pediatrician instead, you may only have vision screening, not a vision exam. For that, you need an optometrist. In fact, children aged 3 to 5 should have their first vision exam whether or not you notice any problems. As many as 60% of vision problems go undiagnosed if a child only has vision screening.


When you take your child for an eye exam, you may want to schedule it early in the day before it gets busy. Morning is also usually easier on young children who could be tired and cranky later in the day. Plan on about an hour for the appointment. Explain the procedure to your child or even practice before you go to the eye doctor.


If Your Child Needs Glasses or Contact Lenses


If an optometrist determines that your child needs corrective lenses, decide whether they will wear glasses or contact lenses. Most doctors recommend waiting until a child is 12 or 13 before they consider contact lenses. Contact lenses require good hygiene that young children often lack. Touching contact lenses, using saliva or water to clean them, or forgetting to change them can lead to injuries and infections.


If your child goes with eye glasses, make sure to find a durable pair. You may want to purchase a backup pair right away because children are more likely to break or lose glasses. Depending on the severity of your child’s vision impairment, their eye doctor may also recommend eye drops or surgery.


If You Child Doesn’t Need Glasses or Contact Lenses


If your child is aged 5 or younger and doesn’t already have vision impairment, there are preventative measures that you can take to ensure their vision develops correctly. Practice throwing and catching, read together, paint, color, do puzzles, play with building blocks, and play outdoors. Once your child is in school, make sure to visit the eye doctor every two years or annually if they have glasses or contact lenses.


Once you determine if your child exhibits signs of vision impairment, be assured that a good optometrist can correct the issue. Your child could perform better in school and feel a lot better once you take the right steps to help them see better.