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Keep an Eye on Your Child's Vision

When it comes to vision, you are your child's first line of defense. You notice something, watch it for a while, and call the pediatrician or eye doctor (optometrist or ophthalmologist) to find out if what you're seeing is a problem.

That's how it should be, experts say. But many of America's kids do not even have a pediatrician.

About 20 percent of children have some type of visual problem. They can be far-sighted or near-sighted. They can have astigmatism, in which an irregularly shaped cornea (the eye's clear "front window") causes blurred images. And they can have a host of other problems, such as crossed eyes, lazy eye, even cataracts or glaucoma.

It's best to catch vision problems while a child is very young. Later, problems are harder to correct. Vision problems are often mistaken for learning disabilities once kids start school, too. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and The American Optometric Association recommend that an ophthalmologist or optometrist examine all infants by 6 months of age.

At first, infants' eyes are all over the place. They move around a lot, just like infants' arms and legs. At about 3 months, infants should be able to track you with their eyes in a room. At 6 months, babies have fairly normal vision. They have vision of about 20/40, which would pass the drivers' test.

Doctors suggest that you look to see whether your baby's eyes move together. And when you view photos of your baby, look for a red glow in the eyes. White or black is not normal, but don't go by one photograph—it's a problem only if it's in all photos of your baby.