Refractive Eye Problems in Young Children

5 min read

Written by Sindhuja Prabhu

Sindhuja Prabhu

Refractive eye problems in young children

When a child complains of eye pain or problems with sight, it is not always due to screen time or exposure to bright lights. Sometimes, it could be something they inherited from parents or grandparents too. Refractive eye problems in young children is one such inherited issue. It can affect the way they see things around them – both far away and up close.

We all inherit our genes from our parents – one set from our mother and one from our father. When there is a defective gene on either or both sides, there is a high possibility for us to inherit it right from birth, through the genes we get from them. Refractive error is one such problem and if your child has it, then read on to know all about it.

In This Article

What is Refraction of The Eye And Refractive Error?

A model of the eye

Our eyes are of a certain shape, which helps us see objects clearly. When we want to see an object, the light rays pass through the eyes and focus on the retina, thus forming an image that the eyes see.

When these light rays pass through the eyes, the cornea and the lens bend the light rays in a certain way to focus them on the retina. For some people, the shape of the eye can be different. This change in the eye shape will change the way the light rays bend, thus making the image look blurry.

Refractive error is one of the most common issues related to the eyes and vision. Different types of refractive errors might affect different people. It is common among both adults and kids. Doctors can correct or treat such refractive errors using corrective lenses either externally or via surgery.

What Are The Different Types of Refractive Errors?

Different types of refractive eye problems

We can broadly classify refractive errors in children into three types. All these types will require corrective lenses to improve sight and vision.


In this type of refractive error, the objects that are too close or too far away from the eye will look blurry. For a clear vision, both focal points of the eye should fall in a single place. When both focal points fall at different places, the object in front looks blurry. This usually happens due to the cornea’s abnormal curvature.

Astigmatism can make your child strain their eyes to see the objects clearly. It is often associated with farsightedness and near-sightedness. The condition can start anytime – either in their childhood itself or in their adulthood. Your child may need contact lenses or eyeglasses depending on how severe the refraction is.


More commonly known as farsightedness, makes objects look blurry and out of focus. In farsightedness, objects that are too close will look out of focus. In this condition, the eye’s refractive power is too weak and the focus of the object far away will fall behind the retina. This usually happens when the cornea or lens is too flat and the eyes are too short from front to back.


More commonly known as near-sightedness, myopia makes it difficult to see objects that are far away clearly. This can happen if the cornea and lens in the eyes are too curved, or if the eyes grow too long from front to back. Myopia in kids usually develops when they are around 10 years old. It is also the most common refractive eye problem in young children.

What Are The Causes of Refractive Eye Problems?

Refractive error can affect a person at any time. It can develop over time or be present from birth or childhood too. In most cases of refractive eye problems in young children, it is inherited. If either one or both parents have refractive errors, they can pass it on to their child.

Ways to Prevent Refractive Errors

Spectacles are usually recommended to correct errors

Refractive errors occur when the shape of the eye or cornea or the lens changes. In many cases, this is hereditary, meaning a child is born with it. Hence, there is no way to control or prevent it.

The only option for parents when their children have refractive errors is to be understanding and supportive. You can be supportive of your child in the following ways-

  • Understand and empathize with their insecurities. When they have to wear eyeglasses unlike their peers, it can limit them in many ways. Some children can feel insecure because of this. Be an understanding parent and help them through this phase
  • They may not be comfortable playing like other children. They may need time to get comfortable with the glasses and may refuse to play until then. Be supportive instead of forcing them or shaming them into playing a sport or with other children
  • They may find it difficult to see things far off or up close despite the glasses. They may need some adjustments from time to time. Take them to the eye doctor regularly and do not miss their appointments
  • Your child may face bullying as they are different from others. Do not hesitate to support them and contact the school authorities about the same. Teach them how to face bullying and show them you are there to support and protect them

How Are Refractive Errors Corrected?

A kid getting eyes examined

Children generally do not complain of blurry vision. Especially if it happens only at times (when they try to see far-off objects or objects up close). However, parents, teachers, and caregivers who spend a lot of time with the child can notice certain signs and symptoms that suggest the child can have an eye problem. The best way to confirm an issue with the eyes is through an eye exam.

The doctor will use drops to dilate the eyes and check if there is any refractive error and what type of refractive error it is. The doctor will conduct an eye exam and depending on the severity of the refractive error will suggest correction methods.

In most cases, the doctor will prescribe eyeglasses to help improve the child’s vision as they generally do not suggest contact lenses for children. If the refractive error is severe, your doctor might even suggest a corrective surgery. They can suggest laser surgery to correct the cornea or lens-based surgery to implant lenses in the eye.

Eye problems are not uncommon in children. While some children develop it at very early stages in life, some children can be born with it. You may not discover the problem until you catch your child squinting or get complaints about blurry vision and headaches. Today, you have many options to correct such Refractive eye problems in young children and help your child have a good vision.


1. How do You Detect Refractive Errors in Children?

When your school-going child is unable to see the blackboard or read from materials unlike other children, it is an indication of a vision problem. If your child is squinting or is unable to see much up close, it can be a refractive error. Only an eye exam can reveal the real issue.

2. At What Age do Children Experience Refractive Errors?

Refractive error can affect a child at any time. It can be present right from birth time or develop as they grow up. There is no specific age category for this problem.

Sindhuja Prabhu,M.Sc (Psychology),PGDBM

Sindhuja, a mother of two, is an obsessive mom with a keen interest in psychology, especially child psychology. Her quest for knowledge and way with words led her to become a passionate content writer. She transformed her love for writing into a full-fledged career which incidentally also turned up being the perfect stress buster for the last 5 years.Read more.

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