Long-sightedness in children is extremely commonplace and is often left untreated due to the natural correction process the body undergoes.
In this article, our expert paediatric John Bolger tells us all about vision development in babies.
“Did you know that almost all babies are long-sighted when they are born? In most cases, the eyes will correct themselves within 2 years through Emmetropization.
As an orthoptist, I am a specialist in helping people with squints and similar eye conditions. If I am examining a 2-year-old, glasses are not always necessary due to the commonality of both hypertropia in newborn babies and general long-sightedness in children.
On the contrary, short-sightedness in children of this age is much more unusual.
Emmetropization is the eye’s process of aligning its axial length to the focal length of its optics. However, imperfect alignment causes short-sightedness, and both genetics and environment can have an impact on this process.
For example, there is strong evidence to suggest that children who spend less time outside are more at risk. When emmetropization doesn’t happen, light entering the eye isn’t properly focused on the retina and so the brain receives a blurred image.
A secondary effect of this is that neural pathways in the brain responsible for sight start to get ‘lazy’, thus working less effectively.
“An eye test called a refraction test needs to be done in this case as this measures which prescription lenses the child will need in order to correct their sight. If the child is given the right prescription, their vision will be immediately corrected whilst wearing the glasses, and refractive adaptation will begin.
So wearing glasses can actually exercise the visual system in such a way that the eye and brain eventually adapt to self-correct the child’s sight.
The more often a child wears glasses the more adaptation occurs. There is a bit of neuroscience behind this; because the brain now receives a clear image from the optical nerves the visual pathways in the brain are stimulated to work properly. This reawakens the neural pathways.
Refractive adaptation does not always completely restore perfect vision but does much to significantly improve it. Depending on the length of time the child’s vision has been left untouched, treatments such as occlusion may well be needed in order to further stimulate the cells, so the earlier the better.
Research shows that a full 18 weeks with glasses is the maximum potential time period for refractive adaptation to have an impact before occlusion is necessary.
Glasses make up for the miscalculation between the lens and the size of the eye; however, this will only slightly change as a child grows, as long as the prescription is very small.
In these cases, the optician may advise them to wear their glasses as teenagers when at school, work, the cinema and whilst driving. For children under the age of 10, however, it is advisable to wear glasses full-time.
|Newborn||Blurry vision, limited color perception|
|Preference for high contrast patterns|
|1-3 months||Tracking objects up to 45 degrees|
|Starts to follow faces and objects|
|4-6 months||Improved color vision|
|Depth perception begins to develop|
|7-9 months||Better hand-eye coordination|
|Refines depth perception|
|10-12 months||Can judge distances more accurately|
|Recognizes familiar objects from a distance|
|12-24 months||Depth perception close to adult levels|
|Can recognize and point to familiar objects|
“The coordination of eye movement develops after birth once a baby sees for the first time. Whilst this vision development progresses, it can be normal for babies to look slightly cross-eyed up until about 6 months of age.
Naturally, if you’re a parent you might be concerned by this, especially if it continues beyond 6 months.
If you’re a bit worried, seek medical advice at the GP. If a problem is spotted then the GP may refer your child to a paediatric ophthalmic (children’s eye specialist), like My iClinic.
From there, a proper diagnosis and treatment plan can be made by a doctor if necessary.
If you are wondering who you need to see, here is a list of specialists and what they do in the eye world:
We hope you’ve found this article on vision development in children and babies useful.
If you have any questions about long-sightedness in children, contact us today or book a consultation to see how we can help your child.