Eye Care & Vision
How good is a toddler's vision?
Between the ages of 1 and 2 years, your toddler's vision is rapidly developing. Most 2-year-olds can see at the 20/60 level.
Your child's visual acuity will continue to develop until it reaches the adult visual acuity level of 20/20 sometime between the ages of 7 and 9 years.
What does 20/60 vision mean? Is this normal vision?
It may help to first understand how doctors measure visual acuity. Through testing many people, eye doctors have determined what a normal human should be able to see when standing 20 feet away from an eye chart. For adults, 20/20 vision is considered normal. (In metric terms, the standard is 6 meters, and it's called 6/6 vision.)
If a child has 20/60 vision, it means that when he stands 20 feet away from the chart, he can only see what a normal adult can see when standing 60 feet from the chart.
This does not mean that your child has a vision problem. It simply means that his eyes have not yet developed completely to the point where his vision is as good as a normal adult's vision.
When does my toddler need to have his eyes examined?
Your child's vision should be checked every time he goes for a routine checkup.
During these screenings, your doctor will evaluate eye health, check for any evidence of eye disease, and make sure that both eyes are working together.
If these checks indicate that your toddler's vision is developing normally, he will not need more formal testing until he is 3 or 4 years old.
If your family has a history of serious vision problems, your health care professional may refer you to an eye specialist.
What are some warning signs that my child might have a vision problem?
Signs that your child is having trouble seeing or that his eyes are not normal include
- Redness, swelling, crusting, or discharge in his eyes or eyelids that lasts for more than 24 hours
- Excessive tearing
- Sensitivity to light
- Eyes that look crooked or crossed
- Eyes that don't move together
- Holding the head in a tilted or other abnormal position
- Frequent squinting
- Drooping eyelids
- Frequent eye-rubbing
If your child shows any of these signs, you should talk to your child's doctor.
How do I know whether my toddler has pinkeye (conjunctivitis)?
If the white part of your child's eye and the inside of his lower lid become red, he likely has conjunctivitis, more commonly known as "pink eye." Children with pink eye also often have a discharge from their eyes and a lot of tearing.
Although pink eye is usually caused by an infection, sometimes it may be caused by an irritation or allergic reaction. In any case, your child should see a health care professional who will likely prescribe medication to treat pink eye.
Eye infections are contagious. You should be careful to wash your hands after any contact with your child's eyes. You should also keep your child away from other children to avoid spreading the infection.
Does my toddler need to wear sunglasses?
Sunglasses are a good idea for toddlers because long-term exposure to the sun can increase the risk of cataracts—a condition that clouds the lens of the eye—later in life.*
Ref: *http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs305/en/index.html; accessed on 28 Feb 2012
The best sunglasses have something called "UV-blocking lenses." (Look for this information on the label.) It is also helpful if the sunglass frames are large enough to block out some side light.
If your child resists wearing sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat can also help to protect his eyes.
What can my toddler eats to support his vision development?
Scientists are learning that your toddler's diet can help his vision development. The fovea—the area of the retina that helps optimize image sharpness—does not mature until at least 4 years of age. There is evidence shown that certain nutrients, including vitamin A, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA) are important to support vision development*. Lutein helps shield developing eyes as a filter against high-energy blue light.1-4 Lutein can also help shield developing eyes from oxidative damage,1,3,5
- Alves-Rodrigues A, Shao A. The science behind lutein. Toxicol Lett. 2004;150:57-83.
- Rapp LM, Maple SS, Choi JH. Lutein and zeaxanthin concentrations in rod outer segment membranes from perifoveal and peripheral human retina. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2000;41:1200-1209.
- Schalch W, Dayhaw-Barker P, Barker FM II. The carotenoids of the human retina. In: Taylor A, ed. Nutritional and Environmental Influences on the Eye. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1999:215-250
- Khachik F, Bernstein PS, Garland DL. Identification of lutein and zeaxanthin oxidation products in human and monkey retinas. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1997;38:1802-1811.
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