Three eye conditions at three years old

How do children at the age of three see the world? Everyone must seem extremely tall and everything so far out of reach. 

But what if everything was out of focus or looked like a fun-house mirror? This was Connor’s reality. 

At the age of three and a half, Connor’s mother, Onnolee, noticed one of his eyes was misaligned.

“At the end of each day, particularly at dinner, [my husband and I] noticed Connor’s left eye muscles were not keeping his eye forwardly aligned,” says Onnolee. “He also kept rubbing his eye so we knew something was wrong. We proceeded to get Connor checked out.”

Like many parents, Onnolee took Connor to his family doctor to get some answers. Since physicians aren’t equipped to conduct comprehensive eye exams, Connor’s doctor recommended a visit to an optometrist.

Connor’s optometrist confirmed that his sight was being compromised due to three eye conditions: strabismus (misaligned eyes), myopia (nearsightedness) and astigmatism. He was prescribed glasses to treat his conditions.

Dr. Janelle King, a member of the Ontario Association of Optometrists, explains that these three eye conditions are common in children.

“A child with myopia [nearsightedness] will have difficulty seeing things at a distance, so reading the blackboard can be difficult. When you have astigmatism, objects are distorted or blurred, whether they are close or distant,” says Dr. King. “With strabismus, one eye isn’t looking where it’s supposed to. In fact the eye may turn in any direction.” 

Only a comprehensive eye exam can detect eye health and vision issues, some of which won’t show any obvious signs or symptoms until the condition is far advanced. Early detection allows for an optometrist to successfully correct common conditions like amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (misaligned eyes), which can only be treated while a child is still young.

“He could see but there was a level of distortion that he had adapted to. Since he was only three and a half at the time, he had a difficult time articulating this to us,” says Onnolee. “He would always tell us he could see.”

Many parents don’t realize their child has a vision problem because they assume that their child would tell them if they were having difficulty seeing. Children often can’t identify they have a vision problem, because they don’t know what normal vision looks like.

“Vision is vital for a child’s development and promotes their overall wellbeing,” says Dr. King. “Having regular eye exams protects a child from a range of issues, allowing them to see their friends in school, learn effectively and prevent potentially sight and life threating conditions.” 

Given that 80 per cent of classroom learning is visual, a child’s eyes are an essential tool that should not be neglected. Vision problems that go undetected not only cause literacy challenges, but create academic, social and athletic performance barriers.

“Connor could read but once he got glasses, he started reading all the time,” says Onnolee. “It accelerated his pace of learning and he was happier when using the iPad for educational games or doing puzzles.” 

The Ontario Association of Optometrists recommends children have their first eye exam at six months-old, another at age three, and annually thereafter, to ensure good vision and development. In Ontario, eye exams are covered by OHIP for children up to 19 years-old.

Connor is more confident wearing his glasses because he knows he can see everything around him properly and they enable him to perform to his best in school, in sports and at home. 

Now ten years old, Connor wants to be an engineer when he grows up. Thanks to an eye exam by an optometrist, an undetected vision problem won’t stand in his way of reaching his dreams.

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