Catch children's vision problems before they worsen

HOUSTON

Tahj Kendrick didn't want to go to the eye doctor. The sixth grader told his mother he could see just fine.

"'Why do I need my eyes checked? There's nothing wrong with the way I see. I can see good,'" Tahj's mother, Carliss Williams, remembers her son telling her. "So when the results came back, I was actually astonished."

"I have no vision problems at all. (But) 20/100 shows he does," said the boy's father, Eugene Kendrick.

After his eye-opening vision test, Tahj admitted he'd been having a little trouble seeing at school.

"Everything was blurry from far away. I had to sit up at the front of the classroom," Tahj said.

Or he'd have to walk to the front to see the board.

"He's probably grown. I bet it's been within the last year that he's had a refractive error. His mother's assessment and his teachers' assessment of him looking out the window at the end of the school year is probably indicative of him starting to have some problems," said Dr. Madhuri Chilakapati, a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Kelsey-Seybold Clinic.

"I would look away, because my eyes would hurt if I looked at it that closely because it was blurry," Tahj said.

It was hard for Tahj's parents to tell when the problems began. But parents can watch for some tip-offs to new vision problems:

  • Squinting
  • Closing one eye
  • Turning their head to one side
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue with reading
  • Eyes misaligned, not working together
  • Eyes crossed or drifting out
"If vision problems go undetected, especially in the age of visual development from age 0 to about age 8 or 9, it can cause permanent visual loss," Dr. Chilakapati said.

So it's important that parents and pediatricians to watch for clues to hidden eye problems.

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