What Parents Should Know About Common Childhood Eye Diseases and Conditions

Young child having an eye exam to check for childhood eye conditionsWhen most parents think about childhood diseases, they think of measles, mumps, and chickenpox. Fortunately, there are vaccines to protect children from those diseases. However, there are currently no vaccines to protect children from the most common childhood eye diseases and conditions. This is why parents need to know more about these diseases and their symptoms. Early detection and treatment can save a child’s vision.

At Campus Eye Center, we are proud to be the Lancaster area’s best resource for helping patients of all ages live better by seeing better. According to the AAO, the ideal age for a child’s first eye exam is six months. Once children reach three years of age, they should have an eye exam every two years—annually if they wear eyeglasses.

If you are a parent or other caregiver for a young child, call us and schedule their first eye exam today! In the meantime, read on to learn more about several of the conditions our pediatric eye doctors see most often.


Conjunctivitis, commonly called pink eye, may be the most well-recognized eye disease. It causes eye redness, itchiness, tearing, and discharge. Conjunctivitis can be caused by allergies or by a viral or bacterial infection.

As we’ve discussed previously here on our Campus Eye Center blog, conjunctivitis is highly contagious when caused by a viral or bacterial infection. However, when allergies are the cause, conjunctivitis is not infectious. This particular eye disease usually only lasts about a week in its viral or bacterial form, but may require medicated eye drops to help it clear up.

Styes and Chalazion

Styes present as swellings or lumps on the eyelid, usually near its edge. An infection of eyelash follicles causes these red and itchy lumps. They usually only last a week and can be treated with warm compresses.

Chalazia (the plural of chalazion) look a lot like styes as they are similarly red, itchy lumps on the upper or lower eyelid. They are also categorized together with styes as eyelid and tearing disorders. However, chalazia are caused by blocked oil glands.

Like styes, chalazia can be treated with warm compresses. If they last for a few months or grow large enough to impact vision, they may need to be surgically excised. When children have either styes or chalazia, they should be examined by a pediatric ophthalmologist.


Amblyopia is a condition of visual impairment—commonly called lazy eye—which can be caused by several different diseases or eye disorders. Amblyopia occurs when the brain’s visual cortex does not develop properly because the affected eye is not able to send enough information to the visual cortex. The result is an eye that is visually impaired, wanders, and is not in alignment with the other eye.

From birth to two years of age is a critical period of development for the brain’s visual cortex. If during that critical period, disease, injury, or other disorder impairs an eye, preventing it from sending enough information to the visual cortex, then that part of the brain cannot develop fully.

We previously discussed amblyopia in-depth in this earlier article on our blog, which offers additional insight into how untreated amblyopia continues to affect a person into adulthood.

The resulting amblyopia could be ongoing even after the problem that affected the eye has been treated. Routine eye exams are critical in detecting this particular eye condition, which can be corrected if caught early enough.


Strabismus is a condition of poor eye muscle coordination, causing eyes to be misaligned. There are three types of strabismus, presenting with three different alignment patterns: crossed eyes, eyes turned outward, and eyes turned upward.

As we talked about in an earlier article, strabismus can affect one or both eyes. Fortunately, this particular eye disorder can be treated with one or a combination of special glasses, eye exercises, eye patching, and surgery. Incidentally, strabismus is one of the leading causes of amblyopia, which is why early detection and treatment of strabismus in infants and young children is so critical.

Preseptal and Orbital Cellulitis

Both preseptal and orbital cellulitis are types of bacterial eye infections. Preseptal cellulitis causes the skin around the eye to swell, making the infected eye look depressed and smaller than the other eye. Preseptal cellulitis requires immediate treatment to prevent the infection from spreading and becoming orbital cellulitis.

Orbital cellulitis is an infection of the muscle cone behind the eye. Orbital cellulitis causes eye pain, impaired vision, and eye immobility. The treatment for orbital cellulitis can include hospitalization for intravenous antibiotics and emergency surgery.

Blocked Tear Duct

Blocked tear ducts cause eyes to be watery. Children can either be born with a blocked tear duct or develop a blockage at any age due to sinus congestion. When a child is born with a blockage, the condition is congenital and often requires a simple surgical corrective procedure.

Significant Eye Condition Symptoms to Look For in the Youngest Children

Infants and young children can’t tell parents when they have vision problems, so parents should be on the lookout for telltale symptoms in addition to any of those we’ve listed above.

Children who hold books too close to their face or sit too close to the television may have a vision impairment.

Frequent head tilting when the child is looking at something and sensitivity to bright lights are also reasons to seek medical attention from a pediatric ophthalmologist.

Campus Eye Center is Lancaster’s Best Resource for Pediatric Eye Care

Early detection and treatment of eye diseases and conditions are essential to protecting and correcting a child’s vision. Scheduling regular eye exams is the most important step parents can take to make sure their child’s vision is developing normally.

Give us a call at Campus Eye Center to schedule your child’s next eye exam or vision screening today.