Common Children's Eye Conditions

Because your child can develop vision problems without showing obvious symptoms, it is important that infants be screened for common eye problems during their regular pediatric appointments. In addition, all children should have their vision tested by an eye doctor for the following common conditions beginning at around three years of age:

Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)

With strabismus, the eyes are not aligned. Strabismus is quite common and occurs in about 4% of children. One eye may gaze straight ahead while the other eye turns inward, upward, downward, or outward. When an eye turns inward, the child has "crossed" eyes (esotropia). There are two common causes for esotropia. Some children are born with crossed eyes (or develop it shortly after birth), and in this situation the muscles are too tight. Treatment commonly involves surgery on the eye muscles, generally performed prior to the age of 2. To learn more, click here Strabismus.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Lazy eye is reduced vision from lack of use in an otherwise normal eye. It usually happens only in one eye. Any condition that prevents a clear image can interfere with the development of vision and result in amblyopia. Amblyopia is common, affecting about 2% of children. Some causes of amblyopia include strabismus, droopy eyelids (ptosis), cataracts, or refractive errors. Because early treatment offers the best results, your pediatrician will refer you to an ophthalmologist. To learn more, click here Amblyopia.

Ptosis (Droopy Eyelids)

Ptosis refers to a situation in which the eyelids are not as open as they should be. This situation is caused by a weakness of a muscle that opens the upper eyelid. When ptosis is mild, it is just a cosmetic problem. However, ptosis can interfere with vision if it is severe enough to block the vision in the eye. In infancy, it is important that ptosis be eliminated so that vision will develop normally. Correction of ptosis usually requires surgery on the eyelid(s).

Color Deficiency (Color Blindness)

To interpret a world of color, there are three cone groupings in different regions of the visible spectrum that provide the brain with the information needed to see all colors. Instability in color recognition may be caused by visual media color changes, deficiencies or the absence of one or more cone groupings or from changes in the interpretation in the central nervous system. Approximately 8 percent of males and 0.4 percent of females have some degree of color deficiency. Congenital color blindness is the most common type. An X-linked recessive trait (only males affected, transmitted through female carriers to half of the sons, no father to son transmission), congenital color blindness is usually bilateral, symmetric and non-progressive. Patients may be tested binocularly. Acquired color blindness may be caused by poisoning, optic nerve or retinal disease. It may be unilateral, bilateral, asymmetric and progressive. Patients should be tested monocularly.

Refractive Errors

Nearsightedness (Myopia)

Children who are "nearsighted" see objects that are close to them clearly, but objects that are far away are unclear. Nearsightedness is very rare in infants and toddlers, but becomes more common in school-age children. Eyeglasses will help clear the vision but will not "cure" the problem. Despite using glasses, near-sightedness will generally increase in amount until the mid-teenage years so that periodic follow-up examinations by an ophthalmologist are indicated.s

Farsightedness (Hyperopia)

A hyperopic (farsighted) eye is too short. Instead of focusing on the retina, images focus beyond the retina, and vision is blurry. A small degree of farsightedness is normal in infants and children. It does not interfere with vision and requires no correction. It is only when the farsightedness becomes excessive, or causes the eyes to cross, that glasses are required.


Astigmatism is the result of an eye that has an irregular corneal shape. Astigmatism may result in blurred vision. Children with astigmatism may need glasses if the amount of astigmatism is large. Learning disabilities are quite common in childhood years and have many causes. The eyes are often suspected but are almost never the cause of learning problems. Your pediatrician may refer you for an evaluation by an educational specialist to pinpoint the exact cause.

This document is provided for informational purposes only. Please consult an eye care professional about symptoms that may require medical attention and may or may not be covered by your medical plan and/or routine vision plan.

Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) -