What signs should I look for? – Children's Eye Foundation of AAPOS

What signs should I look for?


It’s that time of year and as kids are either back in school, or headed there soon, it’s important to make sure they’ve got everything they need to have the best year yet. Ensuring their vision is healthy is a big part of that. Over the next few weeks, CEF will help answer some of the most pressing questions a parent might have about how to know their child is ready!


What signs and symptoms should I be looking for to notice if my child has a vision problem?


As parents we’re always looking out for indications that something might be not-quite-right for our children. But the signs of a vision problem are not always really obvious.

“It’s extremely important to remember that unless the vision is so poor the child is bumping into walls, they tend not to complain, and the parent wouldn’t necessarily be aware of the decreased vision. Furthermore, a child with normal vision in only one eye, appears to see just as well as a child with normal vision in both eyes. Vision screening is extremely important for detecting vision loss before it’s too late. However, there are signs and symptoms that can indicate the presence of eye problems.” – Dr. Michael Abrams, Pediatric Ophthalmologist, Boston MA

Signs there might be a problem:

  • Unusual sensitivity to light – Some children are more sensitive than others, but significant changes from their baseline sensitivity can be associated a variety of diseases.
  • Complaints of double vision – If your child says they ‘see double,’ that could mean the eyes have become misaligned.
  • Misalignment of the eyes that you can see (strabismus or “lazy eye”).
  • “Jiggling” of the eyes (nystagmus) – Jiggling eyes is never normal and should always be evaluated.
  • Tearing – Some children normally ‘tear’ when it’s very cold and windy, but a change from their baseline pattern can be associated with a variety of diseases.
  • Redness – Often called “pink eye,” this usually bothers the parents and teachers more than the child, and tends to go away on its own with or without eye drops. A red eye that is persistent and/or associated with significant pain, light sensitivity or decreased vision, could be a sign of something more serious.
  • Lid swelling – When associated with itching, it tends to be transient and the result of some allergy or bug bite. When associated with pain and redness, or when persistent, it can be a sign of a variety of diseases.
  • Different pupil colors/white pupil – The pupil is the hole that allows light into the eye and should appear to be black. Sometimes, during photographs, the two pupils appear to be different colors because the light from the camera flash enters them at different angles. If there’s even any question about whether a difference in color is real, or is an artifact of the camera, it should be evaluated immediately.
  • Repetitive, unusual behaviors with regard to vision – Such as squinting an eye shut when looking at things or turning/tilting the head when watching TV.
  • Lack of red eye in photographs.
  • Adjustments in behavior – Avoidance or reading or work that’s near/up close or lack of interest in distant objects and faces.


“Every child should have an instrument-based vision screening at age 1 and again at ages 3-4, followed by annual eye chart screenings in kindergarten and grade school to detect these “hidden” conditions when the child is young enough to reverse the vision loss. These screenings should be done at the pediatrician and, when in school, by the school.” – Dr. David Epley, Pediatric Ophthalmologist, Children’s Eye Care, Kirkland WA

When in doubt, it’s always best to call and ask your doctor’s office. The only way to be sure your child isn’t the one in 20 who will suffer permanent vision loss is to make sure you Screen your child’s Eyes Early. SEE to IT that you detect these problems In Time!

To learn more about vision screening, visit Seemore.Today and download our Parent’s Guide!

We want all kids to have healthy sight for life! Help support the work of the Children’s Eye Foundation, the official foundation of the world’s largest physician organization dedicated to children’s eye care and adults with strabismus.