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Why your child’s vision may be failing

young girl with irritated eyes looking at her mobile phone

The vision system develops significantly during childhood. Children often face serious eye problems, from sports-related injuries to genetic eye conditions. And while some problems in your child’s vision may be quite apparent, others are not so obvious. 

If you find yourself asking the question, “Why is my child’s eyesight failing?” You should consult a children's eye doctor near you as a first step.

However, there are many common eye problems that can make it feel like your child’s vision is failing — even on a smaller scale. Here’s how both short- and long-term problems can have a negative impact on your child’s vision, and what the first steps are to correct them:

Improper eye care or protection

Your child’s vision is directly impacted by the care and protection it receives, and improper care can lead to failed eyesight, even if only in the short term. If your child is currently experiencing the effects of an eye injury or infection, it’s important to follow your eye doctor’s instructions for care.

If your child plays sports or has an existing eye condition, he or she may be at risk for infection and injury. The good news is that your child can prevent these unfortunate events from happening by handling glasses and contact lenses properly, and by wearing protective eyeglasses for sports and other activities.

If your child plays sports or has an existing eye condition, he or she may be at risk for infection and injury. The good news is that your child can prevent these unfortunate events from happening by handling glasses and contact lenses properly, and by wearing protective eyewear — such as goggles, face masks, eye shields and sunglasses — for sports and other activities.

What exactly are the steps for preventing eye problems in your child? 

Prevent eye infection

Bacteria is easily spread through dirty fingers, and if the eye area is contaminated, it can lead to infection. For this reason, it’s important to teach children to avoid touching their eyes as much they can.

Handling eyeglasses carefully is critical, and if your child wears glasses or contact lenses, he or she should always practice proper hygiene, regularly and thoroughly wash their hands, and only clean their lenses with the recommended products. 

Contact lenses should be replaced on a regular basis to avoid both irritation and infection.

Prevent eye injury

The best way to prevent eye injuries is to protect your child’s eyes properly. Sports such as football, basketball and soccer are popular among children, but they can present risk factors for eye injury as well, given the flying elbows, jabbing fingers and other physical aspects of the game.

Regular eyeglasses aren't built with sports protection in mind, so if your child is on the active side, you may want to consider a pair of sports glasses or goggles.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can also contribute to serious eye conditions, including cataracts, if your child is not protected. UV coatings are available for many lenses, including some contacts. 

Note: Though certain contact lenses can protect your child from UV radiation, they can only do so much. For maximum protection, pair them with a great pair of UV-blocking shades (preferably UV 400).

SEE RELATED: How can I improve my child’s eyesight?

Undiagnosed eye conditions

Because children aren’t always able to vocalize specific vision issues and eye problems, they can be difficult to detect. Keep an eye out for certain behaviors and an ear out for complaints about the following symptoms, as they can be signs of an undiagnosed eye condition:

  • Headaches

  • Blurry vision

  • Holding books, homework and other objects too closely

  • Sitting too close to the TV

  • Covering or closing one eye to see better

  • Tilting their head or squinting to see better

  • Sensitivity to light, including computer light

  • Frequent eye rubbing

  • Tired, red or itchy eyes

  • Excessive clumsiness

  • Avoiding activities that require near vision (e.g., homework)

These symptoms may be due to one of the most common eye conditions in children, including myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism — all of which are refractive errors and can be treated with corrective lenses.

Another common eye condition in children is amblyopia (lazy eye). This particular condition may require more complex treatment, like patching or vision therapy. 

If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms listed, or even symptoms not listed, it may be time to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam.

SEE RELATED: Pediatric eye exam near me

Lack of eye-essential nutrients

Is your child getting enough nutrients to support their eye health? 

Diet affects overall health, including vision. Although diet and exercise cannot be entirely to blame for your child’s poor eyesight, healthy foods can help prevent eye problems, while a poor diet can lack the nutrients your child’s eyes need to thrive.

Processed foods in particular are something to avoid as you keep the health of your child’s vision in mind. While they admittedly cut down on preparation time for snacks and school lunches, they can also have a negative impact on your child’s overall health — including vision health. 

Consider the following healthy substitutes for your child’s diet:

  • Instead of prepackaged fruit snacks, try fresh, naturally wrapped fruits like citrus and bananas.

  • Try giving your child carrots instead of crackers for a boost of beta-carotene.

  • Walnuts are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Consider these instead of potato chips. 

  • Swap high-sugar cereals with fortified and whole grain cereals.

There are many other foods that can aid in your child’s eye health, but some of the most noted nutrients include vitamins A, C, D and E, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, bioflavonoids and selenium.

Like dietary choices, exercise can also influence eye health. Physical activity allows blood and oxygen to flow through the body, which is important for the development and ongoing health of your child’s eyes. Experts suggest children get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily.

Family eye health history

If your child has poor eyesight, genetics could be to blame. While many genetic eye conditions and diseases occur later in life, some could be affecting your child now. Regardless, it’s important to know your family’s eye health history and how to manage hereditary eye conditions, such as:

These are only a few of the genetic eye conditions to be aware of that can affect your child’s eyesight. Let your child’s eye doctor know of any conditions or eye diseases that run in your family, so that your child’s vision can be treated appropriately now and in the future.

WORRIED ABOUT YOUR CHILD’S EYESIGHT? Consult an eye doctor as soon as possible to address your concerns.

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