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Vision change in a child

Many children will experience changes to their vision, abnormal eye movements and other visual abnormalities. Most of these are not caused by a brain tumour. But, vision changes can sometimes be signs of a brain tumour.

a close up shot of child's eye - changes in vision are brain tumour symptoms in children

On this page, we’ll discuss the vision changes in a child that might be signs of a brain tumour and what to do if you notice them. We’ll cover:

Other symptoms

Use our Better Safe Than Tumour symptom checker to check for other brain tumour symptoms.

Talking to your doctor

Learn more about how to approach your GP.

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When might a vision change in a child be a sign of a brain tumour?

There are two main types of vision changes to look out for when looking for signs of a brain tumour in a child:

  • Abnormal eye movements such as eyes looking like they are flicking, wobbly or quivering. You should also look out for any change in appearance, like one eye bulging.
  • Vision changes such as blurred or double vision or changes in eyesight.

Can a squint be a symptom of a childhood brain tumour?

A common visual abnormality is a squint. This where the eyes look in different directions. It is very rare for a squint to be caused by a brain tumour. If you notice that your child has a squint, this should be checked out by an eye specialist.

How to spot vision changes in children or babies

Babies and young children may show some changes in their behaviour which alert you to a problem with their vision.

This could include a reduced ability to focus on people or toys in front of them or struggling to follow moving objects with their eyes.

They may appear clumsy, stumbling and bumping into things.

Your child may start sitting closer to the television to be able to watch it.

They might become clingy in new situations.

A nursery or school teacher might tell you that they have noticed changes in your child during class, for example struggling to read.

If you are concerned about your child, you should make an appointment with a GP or optician.

I think my child might have a brain tumour, what should I do?

Brain tumours are rare. But, if you’ve noticed a vision change in your child or if your child has more than one symptom of a brain tumour then:

  • Talk to your doctor
    GP appointments are usually quite short, so make sure you find out how to best prepare for your child’s appointment.
  • Get an eye test
    If your child’s symptoms are limited to changes in vision and/or headaches, get their eyes tested by an optician before seeing your GP.
  • Go to A&E
    If the symptoms are sudden or severe, you should go to your emergency department or call 999.

More information

Download the HeadSmart symptoms card – PDF

Pocket-sized symptoms card that list the common signs and symptoms of childhood brain tumours, which you can take with you to your family GP if you are concerned about your child.

Check the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour

Know the Signs and Symptoms

Although brain tumours are rare, if you or a loved one are experiencing two or more of the signs and symptoms it’s important that you speak to your doctor to rule out a brain tumour.

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