Does my child need an eye test?

Yes! A child eye test can often be overlooked but it should be on every parent’s to-do list

Does my child need an eye test?

Taking your little one to the dentist once those pearly whites start appearing is a given, yet somehow kids’ eye tests don’t feature as a rite of passage until they reach school-age. But, says Boots optometrist Reena Joshi, “eyes undergo huge developmental changes in their first few years, so if we can identify any sight problems early, we can treat them more successfully.”

Eye tests & my toddler

Your child’s eyes will have been checked at birth and then at their six-week review, where the doctor checked the lenses, pupils and retina. Next up will be the 2.5-year health visitor check, where you’ll be asked if your child has any visual problems. After this point their vision won’t be formally assessed again until the basic visual screening test at school (age 4 or 5). But, points out Reena, “children are masters of adaptation. Plus, they don’t know what ‘normal’ vision is and they can’t effectively tell you what’s wrong. That’s why a full eye test around the age of three at your local optician is so important. If any problems are suspected, children can have an eye test at any age. You won’t receive a letter or notification – it’s up to you to be proactive and book one in.” And it’s worth it – a recent survey found that three-quarters of optometrists have seen children with vision problems that could have been treated more successfully if diagnosed earlier. “By [the time they’re at school], we’ve missed the best time to intervene,” says Reena. 

How to spot a problem with your child’s eyes

The most common childhood eye condition is amblyopia, or a “lazy eye”, where the vision doesn’t develop properly in one or both eyes. A lazy eye might be the result of the child having a squint (where one eye may either turn inwards, outwards, downwards or upwards – always get this checked by your optometrist) or focusing problems due to the shape of the eye (long-sightedness or short-sightedness). “One eye may turn in or look different but a lazy eye can appear normal, so it may be difficult to spot,” says Reena.

“Some eye conditions do not display any obvious signs or symptoms, but watch out for things like your child sitting too close to the TV, rubbing their eyes frequently, or having difficulty concentrating.” says Reena. “If there’s anything you’re concerned about, come in for a test and we’ll see what’s going on.”

What happens during a child eye test?

Firstly, the optometrist will check the health of the eyes for any abnormalities. “Then, we’ll use age-appropriate techniques, such as matching picture cards, to check how well your child can see – they don’t need to know their letters yet,” says Reena. “Often, it’s enough for us to just observe how the child looks at things.”

Treatments for children’s eye problems

“If we spot an issue, there’s lots we can do,” reassures Reena. “If one eye is weaker, we’ll get your toddler to wear glasses with a different prescription in each lens to improve vision. Glasses for toddlers curve around the ear too so they won’t fall off, and have specially shaped frames to fit their features,” she adds.

Seeing into the future

A lazy eye may be able to be corrected – or they may continue to need glasses going forward. “Even if there are no issues, your child should have an eye test at least every two years, as eye conditions may occur at any time,” says Reena. “We want to give your child’s eyes the best chance to develop so your child can play, learn and thrive.”