If not diagnosed early or treated properly, astigmatism in children can force them to work harder to see well. This can lead to eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, and delayed learning.
The pediatric ophthalmic specialists at Eye Consultants of Pennsylvania provide diagnostic and complete evaluation and treatment for infants, children, and young adults. If you are looking for highly skilled pediatric eye doctors in the Berks County area, we are the leading ophthalmology practice in the region with four convenient locations in Wyomissing, Pottsville, Pottstown and Blandon.
David S. Goldberg, MD is a board-certified Pediatric Ophthalmologist who specializes in pediatric surgery and oculoplastic surgery in children and adults. He graduated with high honors from Princeton University and University of South Florida Medical School. Dr. Goldberg was fellowship-trained in pediatric ophthalmology by the renowned Zane Pollard, MD of Eye Care Associates in Atlanta, Georgia.
Mitchell M. Scheiman, ODis a board-certified Pediatric Optometrist who also specializes in Orthoptic Treatment. He graduated from the New England College of Optometry and completed a residency in Pediatric Optometry and Vision Therapy at the State University of New York. Dr. Scheiman is an Associate Professor of Optometry at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry as well as Chief of the Pediatric and Binocular Vision Services at The Eye Institute of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in Philadelphia.
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), children should have a thorough eye exam at the age of 6 months, again at the age of 3, and just before starting kindergarten or first grade, at age 5 or 6. Many of the eye problems that affect children are treatable, and early treatment can prevent life-long vision problems. One common problem is astigmatism.
What is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is an imperfection in the curvature of the eye. When the cornea (the clear front cover of the eye) or the lens inside the eye is curved instead of being even and smooth in all directions, astigmatism occurs. The eye is normally shaped perfectly round like a basketball, but with astigmatism the eye is more elongated, similar to a football. This curvature distorts light rays as they enter the eye and causes blurred vision. Both distance vision and near vision are affected.
Astigmatism is not an eye disease; it’s simply a problem with how the eye focuses or “refracts” light onto the retina. It is called a “refractive error,” and may occur at the same time as other refractive errors, such as nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia). Astigmatism in children is usually present at birth, but may develop after an eye injury or eye surgery.
How Common Is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism is a very common childhood vision problem. Research supported by the National Institutes of Health indicates that about 23% of very young children (from 6 months to 1 year old) have it, but many children grow out of it. By the time they reach school age (5 or 6 years old), only about 9% have astigmatism. The study also showed that it is slightly more common in Asian and Hispanic children.
What are the Symptoms of Astigmatism?
Signs that your child may have astigmatism include:
- Frequent complaints of headaches
- Complaints of eye strain, especially after reading
- Blurred or distorted vision
- Squinting or constantly closing eyes
- Tilting the head or turning to see better
- Closing one eye to read, watch TV, or see better
- Shielding eyes or other signs of sensitivity to light
Schedule a thorough eye examination with your optometrist or ophthalmologist if your preschooler exhibits any of these signs. Astigmatism can be detected by pediatric vision screening.
Can Astigmatism Be Corrected?
Yes. Astigmatism can usually be corrected with properly prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses, although these may not be necessary before the child starts grade school. Some children who have only a slight degree of astigmatism and no nearsightedness or farsightedness may not need corrective lenses at all.
Astigmatism that is not properly treated can lead to other conditions and even vision loss. If you have any concerns about your child’s vision, make an appointment today with Eye Consultants of Pennsylvania. Our goal is to prevent vision loss and make the world a brighter, clearer place for every member of your family, no matter their age.