Adolescent years are a time of growth, opportunity, activity, and learning as teenagers’ bodies undergo major changes. Puberty can bring new ways of living and new challenges, especially when it comes to health. While the majority of adolescents are healthy, one issue that can often arise and affect their lifestyles is vision problems. Here’s what you need to know about eye development during the adolescent years.
Early Eye Development
By the age of six, a child’s eyes and brain are developed enough to properly interpret visual signals like color and depth perception. They will be learning and developing reading comprehension skills, hand-eye coordination, distance interpretation, and more. However, if a child begins to experience learning or cognitive difficulties, it may mean that their vision needs correction.
Some children need eye correction from an early age, especially since vision problems can be evident as early as a year or two old. However, it’s not uncommon for the middle and high school years to be the time when a child begins to experience sight challenges. Since puberty affects the whole body, it can impact continued development of the eyes, which don’t finish fully growing until around age 20. Some common signals of vision problems that your child might exhibit during their preteen and teen years include:
- Frequent eye rubbing, squinting, or blinking
- Covering one eye
- Tilting the head to one side
- Seeing double
- Eyes turning in or out
- Mental fatigue
- Frequent headaches
- Short attention span
- Avoiding reading and other close-up activities
- Losing their place while reading
- Difficulty with reading comprehension or remembering what has been read
- Struggling with performing in sports and other activities
Some of these symptoms tend to overlap with symptoms of other conditions such as ADHD or dyslexia, which is why it’s important for children and adolescents to have a regular physical and eye exam in preparation for school. That way, they can avoid being misdiagnosed and can begin working on finding a solution.
Common Adolescent Eye Conditions
Nearsightedness (also known as myopia) is when an individual can see things close to them, but has a hard time seeing things far away. The levels of this condition can vary greatly, but it often begins to show itself when adolescents enter advanced reading levels, participate in sports and other extracurricular activities, and learn to drive. It can affect their ability to learn in a classroom setting, see a ball on a field, or even cause issues with depth perception. Myopia can be influenced in part by long periods of close-up reading of small-print words and heavy use of screen time, and can be managed through the use of prescription lenses.
On the opposite side of the spectrum from nearsightedness, farsightedness (also known as hyperopia) is when an individual is unable to see things close to them. This can result in bumping into walls and other people that they didn’t realize are close to them, and having difficulty comprehending words on a page without holding the book at a distance. Farsightedness is fairly common in young children, but if it continues to grow, adolescents may need eye correction in order to improve vision.
Astigmatism is an eye condition in which the curvature of the lens of the eye is misshapen, which can cause both near and far vision to be blurry. Effects of astigmatism can vary so drastically that one person can have different levels of visual impairment in both eyes. This eye condition can usually be corrected through the use of prescription lenses, just like nearsightedness and farsightedness.
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can affect people of every age. However, symptoms of its effects can be seen as early as the adolescent years, especially if children spend a lot of time outside without proper eye protection. It’s not uncommon for 75 to 80 percent of eye damage from UV rays to occur by the age of 18, which means it’s essential for children who are active outdoors to wear proper sun protection gear. This should include polarized, UV-blocking sunglasses and keeping themselves from looking for too long directly at or near the sun.
Because of how active the adolescent years usually are, children may experience injuries at a young age. The face is particularly susceptible to injury during athletic activities, building things in workshops or during community service projects, or even just tripping and falling. It’s important to know proper first aid techniques in case your child gets a foreign object in their eye or experiences a blow to the face or head.
It’s generally a good idea to make sure your teen or preteen gets an annual eye exam, as a lot can happen to their sight over the course of a year. If they need vision correction, it would be our pleasure to give them a prescription and help them choose between glasses and contact lenses. If they experience a major eye emergency, call 911 or take them to the emergency room first. However, if they experience a black eye or getting an object in their eye, you can contact us for an emergency visit. Schedule your teen’s next eye appointment today!