Most children have excellent eyesight and do not need to wear glasses. However, if there are problems and they are not picked up at an early age, the child may have permanently reduced vision in one or both eyes.
If you have any concerns about your child’s eyes, or if there is a history of squint or lazy eye in the family, take your child to a local optometrist for a sight test. Read below for more details on these conditions.
What is Lazy Eye and how can it be detected?
About 2-3% of all children have a lazy eye, clinically known as ‘amblyopia’. This may be because they have one eye that is much more short- or long-sighted than the other, or they may have a squint (where the eyes are not looking in the same direction). If you notice your child appears to have a squint after they are six weeks old, you should have their eyes tested by an optometrist or ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
The sooner the child is treated, the more likely they are to have good vision. It is more difficult to treat a lazy eye if the development of eyesight is complete (usually around the age of eight), although it may still be possible to significantly improve the vision in the weaker eye. Some schools have a vision screening done but this is not a full eye examination – it is only a way of identifying reduced vision at an early age because many children will not realise that they have a lazy eye, and parents may not be able to see it. If any visual problems are picked up the child is then referred to the local optician for a complete eye examination.
Don’t expect your child to tell you if there is a problem. Children assume that the way they see is normal – they will not have known anything different. The treatment will depend on what is causing the lazy eye.
Most common treatments for children’s lazy eyes (amblyopia):
- If it is simply because the child needs glasses, the optometrist will prescribe these to correct sight problems.
- If the child has a squint, this may be fully or partially corrected with glasses.
- Some children may need an operation to straighten the eyes, which can take place as early as a few months of age.
- If the child has a lazy eye, eye drops or patching the other eye can help to encourage them to use the lazy eye to make it see better.
- Whether a child needs glasses or not is because of the shape and size of their eyes. Wearing glasses will not change their eye shape, and will not make your child’s eyes worse. If your child has a lazy eye, wearing glasses may make their sight permanently improve. Your optometrist will tell you how often and when your child should wear their glasses.
Which children should be tested?
You should make sure your child has a full eye examination if:
- your child has special needs – children with special needs often have eye problems
- there is a history of a squint or lazy eye in your child’s family
- people in the family needed to wear glasses when they were young children.
Signs to look out for:
- one eye turns in or out – this may be easier to spot when the child is tired
- they rub their eyes a lot (except when they are tired, which is normal)
- they have watery eyes
- they are clumsy or have poor hand and eye coordination
- your child avoids reading, writing or drawing
- they screw up their eyes or frown when they read or watch TV
- they sit very close to the TV, or hold books or objects close to their face
- they have behaviour or concentration problems at school
- they don’t do as well as they should at school
- they complain about blurred or double vision, or they have unexplained headaches.
Protect your child’s eyes from the sun
Some studies suggest that exposure to high levels of sunlight throughout your life may increase your risk of developing cataracts and AMD (age-related macular degeneration), although this has not been proven for AMD. Because children tend to spend a lot of time outside, it’s important to protect your child’s eyes in the sun. Make sure your child’s sunglasses have UV protection and carry the British Standard (BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013) or CE mark. You can also protect your child’s eyes by making sure they wear a hat with a brim or a sun visor in bright sunlight.
However, scientific studies have shown that children who spend time outdoors are less likely to be short-sighted, so don’t stop your child exercising outdoors – just make sure their eyes are properly protected.
It’s always best to prevent and treat children’s lazy eyes at the earliest possible.
Book an appointment now to have your child’s eyes tested.
If you have any questions, you can always reach us out by filling the contact form (https://www.gayaopticians.com/contact/)