Recognising Vision Issues in Our Tamariki  

What are the symptoms of eye problems in children

As parents, we’re in awe of every step, utterance, and toothy grin our tamariki bring into our lives. Watching them grow is a constant joy, filled with memorable milestones. But it can also be challenging, especially when we recognise some really significant health issues affecting our them. Among these issues are problems with their vision.


Vision problems in children are particularly murky to navigate, with no telling signs of symptoms and significant long-term risks. Eye issues can emerge quicker than we expect, sometimes as early as infancy, so it’s vital to know what to look out for in infants and children.

The first keynote is eyes tell stories, even in infancy. In the world of big-eyed and bushy-tailed babies, vision is a crucial sense constantly developing. During the first year, it is particularly true as their vision transitions from blurry-eyed to the clearer and sharper. But, sometimes, issues can arise, threatening their eyesight.


So, what are the key signs to look out for in infants? One common sign is excessive tearing or eye discharge. This might indicate a blocked tear duct, an issue common in infants. While often not a cause for alarm, monitoring and consulting a pediatrician or your GP for guidance is essential.


Another one to look out for is abnormal eye movements. Watch for any unusual eye movements or frequent crossing of the eyes, as this might suggest underlying vision problems that require immediate attention.


If your baby is constantly rubbing or scratching their eyes, it could signal a general discomfort or an issue requiring a check-up at the local clinic.


Other abnormalities include extreme sensitivity to light. It’s common for babies to squint in bright lights, but if they appear overly avoidant to bright lights – such as digital screens or even in supermarkets, it may be a potential cause for concern.


It’s important to note that the signs can be a little different for infants who have progressed into curious toddlers and adventurous preschoolers. As our kids begin to stand on their own two feet, their eyes often go through a critical maturing phase, which is crucial for detecting and addressing eye issues that might affect their learning and development.


One of the common symptoms of eye problems to pay attention to is squinting or closing one eye. It may sound strange, but if your child frequently squints or closes one eye when reading, watching TV or focusing on objects, it may indicate a refractive error or another issue impacting their vision. Further, they may constantly complain about headaches or eye pain, which again, could hint at potential issues (though they may not be direct vision problems).


Another potential connected issue is difficulty concentrating or a short attention span. Vision problems can impact a child’s ability to focus, affecting their attention span and performance in school and other activities.


Lastly, another telling sign is the avoidance of reading or near-work. If your child shies away from reading or avoids tasks that require focusing on close objects, it might be a sign of a vision problem that needs attention.


Recognising these signs and symptoms in the early stages of life can be empowering for both you and your children. It allows us to take proactive steps in ensuring our they have the best possible vision and access to a world of exploration.


In New Zealand, you are covered by the Well Child/Tamariki Ora service offered free to children from 4–6 weeks to five years—and includes any questions you may have about your child’s vision. So, if in doubt, visit your local optometrist or GP for a free check-up! Further, like many health risks our children face, regular check-ups with your doctor are key to your eye health, ensuring you discover a vision problem early in their learning and development.


Finally, remember, making eye care fun and enjoyable for children can ease any potential fears or apprehensions they might have. Weaving the importance of eye health through storytelling, fun activities, and eye-related games can make the journey towards healthy vision an exciting adventure for tamariki! Like many health risks our children face, the most important thing we can do as parents is simply be attentive to these signs. If we notice them, the best thing to do is to book an appointment with your local GP or eye specialist.