Thankfully, most eye diseases are far more prevalent in adults 50 and over, when the trouble is very evident. But nearly every type of eye condition has a possible manifestation in children as well. More common in kids, though, are issues related to eye alignment, motility and poor focus in ways that will affect visual development in a growing child and permanently affect their ability to get clear, binocular vision as an adult.
It is easy to spot a child who has a “wandering eye” or squints to try to see clearly. More often, though, vision problems in kids go unrecognized because they are unable to know and communication that something is wrong. Even more often, one eye may see clearly and the other not, but it goes unnoticed. Some vision defects in kids can be corrected with glasses as a child but can become permanent if not corrected by 10 or 12 years of age.
The take home message is that kids need visual assessment at an early age; beginning in preschool and at yearly intervals until it is certain they are developing strong vision in both eyes and good binocular or “stereo” vision. School and primary doctor’s office screenings are very effective, but it is imperative that kids get a full dilated eye health assessment exam by time they enter kindergarten to be sure their eyes are healthy and free of eye disease or refractive errors that might need treatment to assure good visual development for the rest of their lives.
For kids that do require glasses to see their world clearly, we are frequently asked at what age they can start to wear contact lenses or have Laser Vision Correction. With contact lenses, we have found that most children over the age of 12 years of age will do quite well adapting to the lenses and caring for them. With the help of a parent, we’ve had success with kids as young as 10 years old managing contact lenses well.
As it relates to age and having Laser Vision Correction, one of the primary factors to being a good candidate for LASIK eye surgery it to have a stable prescription and an eye that is done growing and changing. As a rule, the eyes are still developing throughout the teenage years; therefore, the soonest we consider performing LASIK or any other Laser Vision Correction is 18 years of age. LASIK or Laser Vision Correction can be done under the age of 18 in some special cases.
DAVID WHITING, MD