Children's eyecare

Eyes tests for children

Eye tests for children are funded by the NHS.

It is not necessary for your child to be able to read to have an eye examination as there are various letter and picture matching tests available that can give an accurate assessment of their vision. If you have any concerns about your child’s vision you should book an appointment with us at the earliest opportunity. It is highly recommended that all children have a full eye examination before they start school. Some schools still do vision checks, but these are not the same as a full eye test.

Children's eyecare - group of happy children all wearing glasses

Amblyopia ('Lazy Eye') and children

Between the ages of 8 and the late teens, vision is still developing and it is often at this age that children can become myopic. During study and working life, uncorrected low spectacle prescriptions that may not have previously caused problems can lead to eyestrain. Anything that interferes with the development of either eye during the early years can lead to amblyopia (lazy eye). 

 

Causes of amblyopia include a squint (or strabismus with an eye turning inwards or outwards), congenital abnormalities such as a cataract, or one eye having a significantly different spectacle prescription to the other – in this case, the weaker eye will be amblyopic. Children with an amblyopic eye will not develop good binocular (3D) vision, since the brain needs a clear image from each eye to use both images together.

 

If amblyopia is diagnosed early enough, it can be treated to make the amblyopic eye ‘work’ and develop normally. This can be achieved either by prescribing spectacles or using a patch over the good eye; this is usually done under the supervision of an orthoptist. The earlier this treatment is started, the greater the chances of a successful outcome.

 

If there is a family history of squint or amblyopia, or you notice your child has a squint or suspect that vision is not developing normally, an eye examination is recommended as soon as possible.

Myopia (Short Sightedness) and children

Myopia is blurry long-distance vision, often called “short-sighted’’ or “near-sighted”. A person with myopia can see clearly up close – when reading a book or looking at a phone – but words and objects look fuzzy on a blackboard or on a TV.

 

Twice as many children in the UK are short-sighted (myopic) now compared to 20 years ago. And it’s not just the UK. In parts of Asia, over 95% of teenagers are myopic. This doesn’t just mean you need glasses – myopia increases the risk of eye disease developing later in life. Conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma and macular disease are all more common with myopic eyes. No one is certain why myopia is increasing, but the best thing to do is encourage your children to spend time outdoors. Studies show that outdoor time delays the onset and final prescription due to the UV levels outdoors and the need for your eyes to continually change your distance vision.

 

There are exciting new treatments and products that can slow the rate of myopia once it’s already occurred. Please make an appointment if you think your child might benefit.

Glasses for children

If your child needs to wear glasses, it is important to ensure the frames fit well. Our qualified staff are able to advise on the best choices for your child. We have a wide range of glasses suitable for all ages from very small children. We stock up to date designs for the fashion conscious older child and teenager.

 

Children aged 16 and under and those aged 17 and 18 and in full time education are entitled to an NHS voucher towards the cost of any eyewear they require.

Children's eyecare - three children's frames on display

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about children's eyes

If you have any concerns about your child’s vision you should book an appointment with us at the earliest opportunity. It is highly recommended that all children have a full eye examination before they start school. At least 1 in 5 children have an undetected vision problem which can affect their performance at school, so early detection can make a huge difference to their lives. Children do not know what is or isn’t normal.

Vision tests are no longer mandatory at schools, so don’t assume that their vision has been checked. Even the schools that still offer this, it is not an eye exam and there are many conditions that cannot be identified at a basic vision check. 

NHS eye tests are free to all children under 16 years, or under 19 if in full-time education.

Signs of possible eye problems in older children can include:

  • the eyes seem to point in different directions
  • complaining of headaches or sore eyes
  • problems with hand-eye co-ordination – for example, they may struggle to play ball games
  • regularly rubbing their eyes
  • sitting too close to the TV
  • loss of interest in activities that require extensive eye use
  • turning their head to look at something in front of them
  • problems reading – for example, they may need to hold books close to their face and they may lose their place regularly. 

See our page on visual stress for more information on difficulty reading.

Yes. Twice as many children in the UK are short-sighted (myopic) now compared to 20 years ago. This doesn’t just mean you need glasses – myopia increases the risk of eye disease developing later in life. No one is certain why myopia is increasing, but the best thing to do is encourage your children to spend time outdoors. Studies show that outdoor time delays the onset and final prescription due to the UV levels outdoors and the need for your eyes to continually change your distance vision.

There are new strategies that can slow the rate of myopia once it’s already occurred. Please make an appointment if you think your child might benefit.

Colour blindness is much more common in boys. You may notice a problem when your child is learning their colours. The most common difficulty is distinguishing between red and green, or blue and yellow. There are tests called Ishihara which you can check online, or make an appointment to see the optometrist.

We recommend that a child is at least 12 years old, although if your child is particularly responsible, they could start younger. A child needs to be able to put the lenses in and remove them safely. We recommend daily disposables to reduce the risk of contamination. Contact lenses are a great idea for teens who play sports, although should not be worn whilst swimming. We can order prescription swimming goggles for this.

Absolutely yes! Children’s eyes allow 70% more UV radiation to pass through than adults, resulting in long term eye complications. Up to 80% of your lifetime exposure to UV occurs before age 18. Children with blue eyes are at greater risk.