The importance of childrens eye care
Why eye tests are important for children?
Routine eye tests can help identify any problems that develop as your child gets older.
Children may not realise they have a vision problem, so without routine tests there is a risk that any problems could go undiagnosed for months or years. Up to 80% of a child’s learning is visual, so it’s very important they have the best vision possible to give them the best chance at development. There is a direct link between poor eye sight and poor learning behaviour, when a child can’t see correctly (such as seeing the white board clearly from the back of the class) they can quickly become bored and their learning can suffer.
It's important for eye problems to be identified as early as possible, because they can have a significant impact on a child's development and education. In the same way you shouldn’t wait to see a dentist until your child has tooth ache, you shouldn’t wait to see an optician before they develop an eye problem.
Eye problems are often much easier to treat if detected while a child's vision is still developing (usually up to about seven or eight years of age). An early diagnosis will help to ensure that you and your child have access to any special support services you may need.
When will my child's eyes be checked?
Your child's eyes may be checked:
- within 72 hours of birth –this is known as the new born physical examination and it can be used to check for obvious physical problems
- between six and eight weeks old – this is a follow-up physical examination to check for any obvious problems that weren't detected soon after birth
- at around one year old or between two and two-and-a-half years old – you may be asked whether you have any concerns about your child's eyesight as part of a review of your child's health and development; eye tests can be arranged, if necessary
- at around four or five years old – some children will have an eye health check by a nurse when they start school, although this varies, depending on where you live and is not an eye test.
It's recommended that children have regular eye tests at least once every year. These tests can be done at a high street opticians and are free for all children under 16 years old (and those under 19 years old in full-time education).
Causes of eye problems in babies and children
There are a number of different eye problems affecting babies and children that can be detected during eye tests, including:
- childhood cataracts – cloudy patches in the lens of the eye that are present from birth
- lazy eye (amblyopia) – where the vision in one eye does not develop properly
- squint (strabismus) – where the eyes look in different directions
- short-sightedness (myopia) – where distant objects appear blurred, while close objects can be seen clearly
- long-sightedness (hyperopia) – where you can see distant objects clearly, but nearby objects are out of focus
- astigmatism – where the cornea (transparent layer at the front of the eye) is not perfectly curved
- colour vision deficiency (colour blindness) – difficulty seeing colours or distinguishing between different colours; this is more common in boys than girls
Spotting signs of an eye problem
Although your child should have regular eye tests as they grow up, it's still important to look out for signs of any problems and seek advice if you have any concerns.
Signs of a possible eye problem can include:
- the eyes not pointing in the same direction
- complaining of headaches or eye strain
- problems reading – for example, they may need to hold books close to their face and they may lose their place regularly
- problems with hand-eye co-ordination – for example, they may struggle to play ball games
- being unusually clumsy
- regularly rubbing their eyes
Please do remember to add an eye sight test to your next back to school to do list.
They’re free, fun and could help your child perform to their very best!