Vision contributes around 80 percent of our sensory perception, and unsurprisingly, around the same proportion of what we are taught in school is visually based. So it’s essential for your child’s well-being and development that their eyes are properly cared for.
Despite this, the Department of Education estimated in 2016 that there were around 1.6m children with undiagnosed vision problems in the UK. Campaigns like National Children’s Eye Health Week, which falls during October half term, are a timely reminder of the importance of regular eye tests for children.
Screen Before School
It’s recommended that children have vision screening when they start school. However, this doesn’t
happen in all areas. If this does not happen where you live, take your child to an optometrist at your local optician for an eye examination.
Most children should have their eyes examined at least once every two years. This can be done at a High Street optician and is free for all children under 16 years old (and those under 19 years old in full-time education).
Testing before your child goes to school helps to identify poor eyesight, which can cause learning
and behavioural problems. This is especially true for young children, who may not be able to explain the difficulties they are having with their eyesight or may not even be aware they have a problem.
Your child’s eyes may be checked:
- Within 72 hours of birth—this is called the new-born physical examination, and 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 were not picked up 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 their health and development, and eye tests can be arranged if necessary.
- At around four or five years old—this is called vision screening, to check for reduced vision in one or both eyes.
Signs Of A Problem
A sight test is particularly important if there is a history of childhood eye problems, such as squint or lazy eye, in your family.
There are a number of causes of eye problems in babies and children, and the sooner that vision problems are detected, the better the outcome. Conditions include cataracts (cloudy patches in the lens), squint (strabismus), where the eyes look in different directions, and amblyopia (lazy eye), where the vision in one eye does not develop properly. Of course, the most common are short-sightedness (myopia), where distant objects appear blurred, and long-sightedness (hyperopia), where nearby objects are out of focus. All these can be treated more effectively if they are picked up earlier, and that could make a huge difference in later life.
In older children, signs of a possible eye problem can include difficulty reading, headaches, poor hand-eye co-ordination and regularly rubbing the eyes.
Protection from ultra-violet light from the sun is particularly important in children, as the lens at the front of the eye is very clear. You should protect kids’ eyes whenever the UV Index rises to three or more, even on cloudy days. The Met Office website provides information on UV levels.
Check that their sunglasses have a CE: UV 400 or British Standard Mark, as this will ensure they provide the right level of UV protection. There’s now a wide selection of sunglasses designed especially for kids. All should provide high UV protection, and other features can include polarised coatings, non-slip rubberised frames, wrap-around styles to reduce glare from the sides, floating foam inserts and of course a range of bright, colourful styles.
This fearure was originally published in the summer edition of Healthy Child with Dr Ranj Singh, which you can also read here!