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Common Eye Conditions in Children

Mark Stradling, D.O. Comprehensive Ophthalmology and Cataract Surgery

First of all, there are lots of different eye conditions that occur in kids.  We won't provide an exhaustive list of things here, but hit on some of the more common ones and maybe some of the more important ones.   One of the most noticeable eye conditions among children is strabismus, or eye misalignment.  We'll speak more about this in another section, but let it be known that this is very common, and most of the time very treatable.  However, if left untreated, can have significantly decreased vision that can be permanent.   In infants, a blockage can occur in the tear duct of the eye by the nose.  This is extremely common.  Fortunately, it usually goes away on it own. 

Sometimes, the tear duct needs to be opened up surgically to allow it to drain.  Most of the time, if you place gentle pressure there while the baby feeds it will usually resolve by the time they are a year old.  If you notice swelling occurring near the corner of the eye where the tear duct is act (the corner by the nose) that is still there when your child is 11 months old, you might want to bring them in to be checked.   Hyperopia (farsightedness) and myopia (nearsightedness) are also common.  When a child is young, he or she usually is hyperopic.  Over time, as we grow taller, the eye will grow longer.  This change in growth will cause a shift in the vision towards myopia (nearsightedness).  Whenever a child hits a growth spurt, they usually start having more difficulty seeing far away.  

Teachers are important in helping determine this change.  Students who start to squint to see the board, or need to sit up closer to see the board, are usually due for an eye exam to improve the vision.  When kids start sitting closer to the television, it's usually because they don't see it as well.  And no - sitting closer to the television does not ruin your eyes, contrary to what our moms taught us.  It's simply a sign that we don't see so well from a distance and a sign to our moms that it's to get things checked out.   Dryness is another common issue – particularly here in the desert.  Las Vegas is the driest large city in the country, and as such, many people here suffer from dry eyes.  Symptoms related to dryness include, blurred vision, tearing, burning, itching, redness, eye fatigue, and pain. 

Many times, occasional use of over the counter artificial tears are sufficient to help bolster up the tear film.   On the more serious side of childhood eye issues is something not so common, but definitely worth knowing.  Have you ever noticed the "red eye" effect that you see in peoples' eyes when you take their photo?  Even though it's annoying to have to get that out of the picture, it's actually a good sign.  What is not a good sign is to notice that the pupil looks white.  This condition is known as leukocorea (look-o-ko-re-uh).  This can be a sign of different things, none of which are good.  It could be a sign of a potentially life threatening disease that if caught early, usually can be treated with good results. 

So parents and grandparents, pay attention to the pictures of your little ones.  It may just be light reflecting off of the surface of the eye, but what may seem small and not worth much attention may just kill them.  Let your doctor know right away if you suspect a problem.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.