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Common Childhood Physical Symptoms That Could Be Signs of Undetected Vision Problems

7 Common Physical Symptoms in Children That Could Caused by a Vision Problem

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
near Silver Spring, MD in Olney.

As a parent or caregiver, when a child complains that they don’t feel well or that something hurts, you want to ensure you do what you can to get to the bottom of whatever is ailing them and help them feel better.

You may be concerned that their physical symptoms are caused by an illness, injury, food sensitivity, or environmental factors, but what you may not know is some common childhood physical complaints could be caused by an undetected vision problem that is treatable with vision therapy.

Montgomery County Parents: Don’t miss Dr. Nicholson’s upcoming webinar. Click here to register and learn about how undetected vision problems could be interfering with your child’s performance in school.


Headaches in children can stem from a wide range of causes, including cold, flu, sinus or ear infections, allergies, food sensitivities, emotional factors, or head trauma. Headaches can also be caused by vision problems, even if your child has 20/20 eyesight.

They could be experiencing tension headaches caused by eyestrain or eye fatigue, exacerbated by underlying functional vision problems, such as convergence insufficiency, accommodative dysfunction, or amblyopia. If your pediatrician has ruled out other possible causes for headaches, a comprehensive vision exam may detect a vision problem.

Exhaustion or Fatigue

If your child complains of exhaustion, fatigue, or unexplained tiredness, first see your pediatrician to rule out problems such as asthma, allergies, infections, or more serious illnesses.   

If other possible causes are ruled out and if you notice your child often complains of being tired soon after reading or writing, their fatigue could be caused by a vision problem.  Children with vision problems are constantly overcompensating for their deficiencies and straining or working harder, which can be draining.

Eye Irritation

Your child may complain that their eyes hurt or ache, or that they’re dry, itchy, watery, or red. You may also notice them blinking excessively or rubbing their eyes. While you might assume this eye irritation is caused by allergies, it could be caused by strain from eye tracking, eye teaming, or some other functional vision problem.

Double Vision or Blurred Vision

Complaints of double vision or blurred vision can be alarming because this symptom could be caused by brain trauma or nerve damage from a serious illness or injury. But double vision or blurred vision can also be caused by a misalignment, eye focusing, or eye muscle movement problem that can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Dizziness or Nausea

We often think of dizziness as something that stems from an inner-ear problem. Many people are aware that the inner-ear and brain work together to control balance. So you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find that your child has fluid or an infection in their ear or a problem in the vestibular system when complaining of dizziness.

Our brain and eyes also work together to maintain a stable and even visual plane. We need to be able to fix and maintain our gaze so what we’re looking at remains steady and still. If your child’s visual system is not functioning properly, text or images may be misaligned or blurry, or seem to move, jump, go in and out of focus, appear wavy, or slide down the page. Experiencing any of these effects can cause dizziness or nausea while reading.

Motion Sickness

If a child has a functional vision problem, it can make them especially motion sensitive. When scenery moves by fast, our brains receive information that conflicts with our senses. The vestibular system in our brains integrates information received from the visual system with information received from what we hear and touch and from our muscle movement and awareness, creating balance and calm from the stimuli we take in.

If your child already struggles with visual processing, focusing (accommodative dysfunction), eye tracking (ocular motor dysfunction), or eye teaming (binocular dysfunction), their symptoms may become exacerbated by added or conflicting stimulation.

Clumsiness or Slowness

A child with an untreated vision problem may by clumsy, accident-prone, or awkward. You may wonder if the child has a developmental or physical problem with movement or balance, or you might suspect they’re adapting to a growth spurt. But they could be coping with poor visual-motor integration, a visual processing disorder, inability to focus or efficiently control their eye movement, or skewed depth perception.

The only way to determine whether or not any of these common childhood physical symptoms could be associated with a vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care and vision therapy.

Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center treats functional vision problems with individualized vision therapy programs in our Olney, MD office, convenient to Silver Spring. Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive exam and consultation.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.