We use each of our senses to inform us of what is going on in the world around us, each providing an essential tool in the way we perceive the world and learn about it. As children, our eyesight is especially important to our development, helping us to create memories, learn about our environment, and as we begin to read, develop our language skills.
Vision is very closely linked to the learning process and childhood educational development. Children with undetected eye problems often struggle at school, being unable to read textbooks or view classroom displays correctly. And all too often, young children will not complain of vision problems, as they simply do not know what correct vision looks like.
The Importance of Routine Eye Exams
Early detection of childhood vision problems not only helps children’s educational development, it can also make a crucial difference to the success of treatment, as many conditions are more responsive to early treatment, and many will only worsen if left untreated.
Regular eye check-ups are essential for young ones, not only to check for vision problems, but as a valuable tool to help health care professionals detect eye diseases, as well as more serious general health conditions. All children benefit from regular eye exams, and if your child needs corrective lenses, or you currently buy them contact lenses online, they should also go for at least an annual check-up to ensure that their eye prescription is kept up to date.
Routine Eye Tests
In the UK, a baby’s eyes will be examined within 72 hours of their birth. A second eye exam should follow when they are six-to-eight weeks old, often carried out by a GP. Children’s vision will also be tested before they start school, at around four-to-five years old.
Early Visual Development
The NHS gives the following useful guide to the way a child’s vision should develop over the first year of life:
- 6 weeks old: children will follow a colourful or interesting object, such as a face, with their eyes
- 2-3 months old: children begin to reach for things that they see
- 3-5 months old: children begin to mimic facial expressions and examine objects more closely
- 6-12 months old: children focus on objects that are both near and far away, they see simple shapes, scribble with crayons and are interested in pictures
What Optometrists are Looking For
During childhood eye exams, optometrists check for a range of, not just eye problems, but general health problems too. Refractive errors, such as myopia (nearsightedness), (hyperopia) farsightedness and astigmatism, as well as focusing problems, such as presbyopia, will be checked for. These problems are often easily solved with the right prescription, allowing you to buy the right corrective glasses or contact lenses online. An eye examiner will also check for signs of amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (a squint) as well as cataracts (cloudiness of the eye lens), and at a later age, your child will also be tested for colour blindness.
When to Seek Medical Advice
If for any reason any of the routine eye examinations are not carried out, or if you notice any deviation from the NHS childhood vision guide above, you should speak to your GP about arranging an eye care check-up. If any problems are found, they can often be corrected with the right prescription for you to use to buy corrective glasses or contact lenses online, while other conditions may require simple refractive surgery.
As children are often unaware of an existing eye condition, parents can look out for the following signs of possible vision problems, and seek guidance from their GP if necessary.
In younger children:
- Lack of eye contact
- Problems viewing objects that are either nearby or far away
- Erratic eye movements
- Not turning towards the source of sounds
- Frequent poking or rubbing of the eyes
- Any signs of a squint, or lazy eye (amblyopia) developing
In older children:
- Holding books close up, or far away in order to read comfortably
- Sitting too close to the TV
- Problems maintaining attention at school
- Regular headaches or eye strain