Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Maryland

Monday, November 14, 2016

Headaches & Children’s’ Eye Problems

About Headaches and Children’s’ Eye Problems

It is pretty common for parents to bring their children in for an eye exam because they are complaining of headaches. Headaches are a frequent complaint of kids but fortunately they are usually not serious. Some of the more common causes of headaches in kids include migraine, the stress and tension of school, certain foods with nitrates or MSG preservatives, physical trauma, sinus infections and, of course, eye problems. Parents can be concerned about the serious, but truly rare occurrence of brain tumors causing headaches but this is usually accompanied by other complaints of dizziness, weakness of the arms and legs, and a loss of coordination.

Evaluating Kids with Headaches

As part of evaluating any child with headaches, I always want to be sure that there has been a complete and thorough examination by their pediatrician who may need to order additional tests or even a referral to a neurologist. Then I will need to perform a complete eye exam including evaluation of the pupils, a refraction to determine any refractive error or need for glasses, eye alignment and binocularity testing, and sometimes a formal visual field examination. Routinely, I will put drops in the child’s eyes to dilate the pupils, so that the optic nerves can be properly examined and the refractive error can be most accurately measured.

Eye Problems That Can Cause Headaches

If your child has uncorrected hyperopia or farsightedness, it requires extra effort to focus clearly while reading. This can sometimes lead to fatigue and headache. If significant hyperopia exists, glasses can reduce the effort required to see clearly at near and improve the headache. Mild hyperopia is normal in children, however, and generally does not cause headaches or other symptoms.

When we read or perform other near activities, our eyes pull in toward each other, this is called convergence. The decreased ability to pull the eyes toward each other when viewing near objects (convergence), particularly while reading, may cause headaches. This is called convergence insufficiency, and symptoms include the doubling of images or words, blurred vision, fatigue, and headaches which worsen with prolonged reading. At home eye exercises, sometimes with the help of computer software, can help treat convergence insufficiency. Glasses are sometimes prescribed, but costly in-office eye exercises are rarely necessary.

Acute infections, allergic, and inflammatory diseases of the eyes can also cause headaches. These problems are often accompanied by redness of the eye and/ or the eyelid as well as light sensitivity or photophobia. Acute glaucoma can cause headaches, but rarely affects children. Pseudo-tumor cerebri is a condition caused by increased intracranial pressure, or too much fluid around the brain, and this causes headache and swelling of the optic nerves, but does not typically cause redness of the eyes. During the complete eye exam we perform we will be able to rule out these problems as a cause of headaches in your child. If we do not find any ocular causes of your child’s headache we may refer them back to his/her pediatrician and/or to a neurologist to look for other possible causes of the headaches.

If you have questions about the causes of kids’ headaches or children’s eye problems, or need assistance, please feel free to contact Baltimore Washington Eye Center by calling 800-495-3937, visiting Baltimore Washington Eye Center, Google+ or

Baltimore Washington Eye Center is a leading eye care practice with office locations in Glen Burnie at 200 Hospital Drive, Suite 600, Glen Burnie, Maryland 21061; in Gambrills at 2391 Brandermill Blvd., Suite 200, Gambrills, Maryland 21061 and in Ellicott City at Turf Valley Town Center, 11089 Resort Road, Suite 206, Ellicott City, Maryland 21042. Baltimore Washington Eye Center serves the greater Baltimore and Washington, D.C. area.