How to Detect Vision Problems in Young Children

It's important to get a complete eye screening from age four, especially if there's a family history of an eye condition. In this article, learn how to detect vision problems in children.
How to Detect Vision Problems in Young Children

Last update: 23 November, 2020

Some common vision problems in children, such as strabismus or nearsightedness, are relatively easy for parents to detect. However, other vision problems may easily go unnoticed. Thus, it’s important to pay attention to several symptoms that can signal the presence of eye diseases or vision problems in children.

Warning signs of vision problems in children

A boy wearing glasses.

The first signs of vision problems in children may go unnoticed. However, they may manifest with headaches and blurred vision.

Your child may show early warning signs, such as not identifying distant relatives properly and putting objects very close to his/her face. A child may also rub or cross their eyes, especially when they’re fatigued. In other cases, they may tilt their head back to get a better look and complain of headaches or blurred vision.

A child’s visual behavior during their first months of life

During the first year of life, the normal evolution of vision is as follows:

  • 6 weeks. They react to facial expressions.
  • 2-3 months. They sense movement and can follow bright objects with their eyes.
  • 3-6 months. They look at their hands and can follow the activities of their environment.
  • 4 months. They smile at their reflection in the mirror.
  • 6 months. They follow moving objects with their eyes and tries to reach them.
  • 7 months. They touch their image in the mirror.
  • 9 month. They move forward to look at an object.
  • 1 year old. They look for toys and objects that disappear from their view.

To make sure any problems don’t become irreversible, it’s important to get a complete medical eye screening from age four, especially if there’s a family history of an eye condition.

Types of vision problems

The most common vision problems in children are refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus, and color blindness (color vision alteration) are also common.

Lazy eye

Amblyopia or lazy eye affects about 2-5% of the population and is one of the most common causes of vision loss in developed countries. In the case of lazy eye, diagnosis and early treatment are the keys to preventing the progression of the disease in adulthood.

You have to pay special attention to your child if they were born premature and if there’s a family history of lazy eye, refraction problems, or retina problems. Although this condition is usually asymptomatic, some signs may include headache or neck pain. Also, if your child already knows how to read, they may skip words or confuse letters.


Strabismus affects between 3% and 6% of the population. Early diagnosis of this condition is important because it can be corrected in children with treatment, while it can’t be corrected in adulthood.

Here are some signs of strabismus:

  • Misalignment of the eyes.
  • The eyes don’t move together in the same direction.
  • The child tilts their head sideways to look at specific points.
  • Winking or habitually rubbing the eyes.
  • The child squints or closes one eye to focus.

Vision problems: refractive errors

A girl with her eye doctor.

Refractive errors are common during childhood. It’s estimated that 20% of children suffer from them.

Refractive errors such as astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness affect approximately 20% of children.


Nearsightedness or myopia manifests approximately at age six and usually causes symptoms such as squinting to focus distant objects and confusing people who are relatively far away. Some children may also come closer to objects to see them better or read and squint to focus better.

You may also enjoy the following article: 10 Foods to Help You Maintain Healthy Eyesight

Vision problems: Farsightedness

This condition is usually physiological, meaning it’s present in most babies at birth. However, it gradually disappears as the eye grows. In some cases, however, it may persist for life. An uncorrected high degree of farsightedness may cause amblyopia or strabismus. This condition can cause headaches when doing near vision activities and eyestrain after doing such activities.


This condition causes the light from objects that enters the eye to focus on more than one point on the retina. This leads to blurred and distorted vision. The main symptom is blurred or distorted perception, both for nearby and distant objects.

See a specialist

Did you know the signs of vision problems in children? If you notice these symptoms in your child, consult your trusted specialist. The professional will determine the type of problem and its treatment.

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