Children’s eyesight: who will need to wear glasses?

How do you tell if your baby’s vision is developing correctly, what determines whether your child will need glasses and can a squint be corrected? Optician Kerk Davies gives us the lowdown on children’s eyesight…

Optician Kerk Davies on children’s eyesight

As parents, our contribution to the outcome of our children’s visual future is in our genes. Visual performance, colour appreciation and the colour of our eyes is determined by the genetic ‘bits’ found in the so called chromosome strands within the cells of our body.

There are many pairs of chromosomes, each of the pairs provided by the male and female combination. There is one pair of chromosomes, called the ‘sex linked’ pair, which determine whether we are male or female. That same pair of genetic strands contains the eye information.

Each ‘bit’ can be dominant or alternatively recessive. So the dominant bit wins out in deciding the outcome of that part of the engineering of the body. If one partner has a visual anomaly, such as short sight or myopia and their eye gene is dominant then it is pretty likely that junior will need glasses at some stage.

The actual age of needing correction is less certain, but our own developmental progress is a rough guide. If the partner without a visual anomaly possesses the dominant gene then the likelihood of glasses is less. It is a bit of a 50/50 situation. Both partners with a need for vision correction means a pretty certain specs outcome for the offspring.

The first six years of our child’s eye development is very important in determining the future visual performance. Ideally, we have two eyes both pointing in the same direction (binocular coordination). This enables us to see single, three-dimensional objects (3D vision). If a child is born with a turned eye (strabismus or squint), that needs to be attended to as soon as possible.

Smiling is also an early sign of a child’s visual development, a signal that the eyes can see to mimic the queue of adoring onlookers

The centre of the retina (the layer of receptor cells) at the back of the eye has a small area called the macula, which contains a set of highly evolved cells, responsible for detailed viewing and colour vision.

This structure develops in a similar way to a flower. Both are dependant on the light stimulus. The macula develops as a result of it focussing directly. If the eye is turned off centre then it will not “blossom” as it should. This is the area that develops in the first six years.

Professional help will ensure that the vision of each eye is optimised. Partially occluding the straight eye, in a squint situation, will encourage the macula of the turned eye to “blossom”.

Early signs of vision in our children include following a bright or colourful stimulus. Smiling is also an early sign of a child’s visual development, a signal that the eyes can see to mimic the queue of adoring onlookers.

Do you have any question about children’s eyesight? Leave a comment below and Kerk Davies, the optician, will answer…

Photo credit: Alex Normand

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