According to the CDC, about 1 in 4 American preschool children have an undiagnosed or untreated vision problem. Often, they have astigmatism, which leads to squinting frequently and eyestrain.
Fortunately, astigmatism affects children much less as they age, and effective treatments are available for the condition.
If you suspect irregularities in your child’s vision, continue reading. Here you’ll learn more about astigmatism in children and how to identify the symptoms in your child.
What Is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is a type of eye condition called a refractive error that causes blurry vision. It is not an eye disease. Instead, astigmatism arises when the curvature of the cornea, the transparent outer layer of the eye, is abnormal.
The cornea’s curvature is naturally like that of a basketball. But when you have astigmatism, the curvature is more like a football or egg, altering how light enters the eye and travels to the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive area in the back of the eye. It converts light into signals for the brain.
Typically, the retina receives light at a single focal point. But with astigmatism, the retina receives light rays at several focal points, causing blurred vision.
Further, it can make objects appear blurry regardless of whether they are near or far, and it’s possible to have astigmatism in either one or both eyes.
What Causes Astigmatism in Children?
Several factors can contribute to your child having or developing astigmatism. While astigmatism can develop after an eye injury, surgery, or disease, there are more common causes. Let’s review them.
Astigmatism typically runs in families. So if someone in your family has the condition, your child is at a higher risk of also having it.
If your child already has a refractive error, they have an increased chance of developing astigmatism, including common refractive errors such as myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness).
Smoking during pregnancy can increase the child’s risk of developing astigmatism. Therefore, pregnant individuals should avoid smoking.
All ethnicities can exhibit astigmatism. However, previous studies suggest that children from specific ethnicities are at a higher risk of developing astigmatism than other children. These include:
- Black children
- Asian children
- Hispanic children
- Native American
Signs and Symptoms of Astigmatism in Children
Children may not know they have a vision problem if they’ve experienced astigmatism their whole life. Here are some signs and symptoms of astigmatism in kids to look for when observing your child.
Sensitivity to Light
Those with astigmatism see light differently. Light rays may look streaky or smeared with a high glare, which makes it difficult to focus.
Thus, sensitivity to light indicates astigmatism in children’s eyes. Take your child to an optometrist for an eye exam if they appear to have light sensitivity.
Eye rubbing is a common sign of allergies, blurry vision, or even eyestrain. Eye rubbing can damage the eyes and surrounding tissues. If your child is continuously rubbing their eyes, encourage them not to do so. Then seek out an optometrist to evaluate why they are rubbing their eyes.
When someone has difficulty seeing, they may try squinting to clear their vision. You may notice your child squinting their eyes while doing the following:
- Looking at objects in the distance
- Watching TV
It’s best to schedule your child for an eye examination with an optometrist if they are often squinting to improve their vision.
Too Close to Digital Screens or Books
If your child is holding a digital device or book too close or too far, it may be a sign of vision problems and is a strong indicator that it’s time for an eye examination.
Do Kids Grow Out of Astigmatism?
Yes, it’s possible, but you shouldn’t count on it. Research from the National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that of the 23% of young children aged six months to one year with astigmatism, only 9% still have the condition at five or six years old.
Yet, you cannot rely on self-correction, so it’s a good idea to schedule routine pediatric eye care exams. Severe astigmatism could lead to amblyopia (lazy eye) or strabismus if not adequately treated. An optometrist can help assess your child’s vision through a vision screening and provide early treatment should the condition continue.
Treatment Options for Children With Astigmatism
Treatment options are available for those who don’t grow out of their astigmatism. Your eye doctor can outline the most appropriate treatment plan for your child.
Eyeglasses are the most common way to help children with astigmatism. Annual eye exams can help ensure that your child’s optometrist is adjusting their eyeglass prescription to fit their changing needs.
Soft and Ridgid Gas Permeable
Corrective lenses for astigmatism are called toric lenses or rigid gas permeable lenses (RGPs). They are custom made to fit the patient and are ideal for low-grade astigmatism.
Myopia Control Lenses
True Eye Experts also proudly offers the MiSight® 1-day contact lens, the first and only lens approved by the FDA to slow myopia progression in children aged 8-12 at the initiation of treatment. The lenses help slow the elongation of the eye while correcting the refractive error.
Another option is orthokeratology, or ortho-k, specialty contacts that children can sleep in to help “fix” their vision throughout the day. Using ortho-k lenses, a child will not need to wear their glasses throughout the day.
Eyeglasses may offer a better solution for children who are too young or struggle with putting in contact lenses.
Refractive surgery like LASIK is not recommended for a child under 18. Ask your optometrist the ideal age your child should reach before considering refractive surgery.
Schedule an Appointment for Your Child
Regarding eye conditions, astigmatism in children is highly treatable and shouldn’t cause much concern. But it’s still essential to see an eye doctor as soon as you notice your child having vision problems. At True Eye Experts, eye exams are recommended starting at 6 months, two years, and every year after. Schedule your child’s eye appointment for a complete vision assessment.