Whilst as parents we are very good at getting our children's teeth checked, we often forget that eye checks are just as important. Sight tests are free on the NHS for all children under 16. Young children will very rarely tell us that they have a problem with their sight, as to them what they are seeing is normal. Most children have excellent sight and do not need to wear glasses but if there are problems and they are not picked up at an early age, a child may have permanently reduced vision in one or both eyes.
Won't my child's eyes be tested at school?
Some children may have vision screening done at school, between the ages of four and five. However, it is important to be aware that this does not equate to a comprehensive eye examination carried out by a qualified optometrist. We therefore recommend bringing your child in for their first eye examination at around the age of three. This is especially important if there is a family history of needing strong glasses at a young age, or squint or lazy eye in the family, as the earlier that eye problems are picked up, the better the outcome will be.
What if my child can't read?
Children do not have to be able to read, or even talk to have their eyes examined. It is possible to detect a squint (eyes not aligning properly), short or long sightedness and eye health problems, with very little input from the child.
What is long-sightedness?
If your eyeball is too short, light focuses behind the retina and you are long-sighted (hyperopic). People who are long-sighted have to focus more than they would do if they had perfect sight, particularly on things that are close up, but they are often still able to see clearly. If a child is very long-sighted, one eye may turn in as the child tries to focus on things. The child will need glasses to correct this and to stop the eye that is turning from becoming lazy.
What is short-sightedness/myopia?
If your eyeball is too long, light focuses in front of the retina and you are short-sighted (myopic). People who are short-sighted have difficulty seeing things that are far away, such as the TV or the board at school.
Myopia in kids tends to progress throughout childhood and higher levels of myopia are associated with higher levels of eye disease in adulthood.
Myopia can be hereditary. A person with one short-sighted parent has three times the risk of developing myopia – or six times the risk if both parents are short-sighted.
What is myopia control?
Myopia control is a treatment that aims to slow down or halt the progression of myopia in children and young adults.
As yet, there is no cure for myopia. The physical change of the elongated eyeball cannot be reversed, even by laser surgery, which is why prevention is so important. To read more about the importance of myopia prevention/control and to assess your child's likelihood of becoming myopic visit www.mykidsvision.org
At elizabeth pope opticians we offer myopia control in the form of soft disposable contact lenses (MiSight) and orthokeratology. For more information on these, click on the link below.
What is astigmatism?
If your eye is shaped more like a rugby ball than a football, light rays are focused on more than one place in the eye, so you don't have one clear image. Glasses which correct this may make a child feel strange at first, although their vision with the glasses will be clear.