Children's Eyecare

Did you know that 1 in 5 schoolchildren have an undiagnosed eye problem according to research from the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB)? Early detection and treatment of defective vision is essential to prevent permanent disability. Children often do not mention poor vision because they assume it is normal - only around the age of 10 do they start to realise they do not see as well as their friends.

In the UK we are particularly bad at checking our children's eyes, much worse than at detecting dental health problems! Most parents who regularly take their child to the dentist never think of having their eyes tested.

Aren't children checked at school?

Many schools no longer check children's eyesight and most recommend parents ensure that their child is examined by an optician.

How can you test a child who can't read?

Children don't need to be able to read or talk to be tested. There is a range of modern tests according to the age and ability of the child. With very young children, we can use tests which require no input from the child. We recommend parents bring children young so they can get used to the practice surroundings and the optician.

How often should my child be tested?

We recommend an initial examination at 12-18 months which helps to detect problems early, well before the child starts school. The majority of squints, for example, start before the age of 3.

Then we see children regularly, at a minimum before as they start the reception class in infant school, in year 3 or 4 (Juniors), and in year 6 before entering the senior school. We then review at 13-14 as they start GCSE options. Frequent eye examinations will reveal the presence of any uncorrected prescription and spectacles, contact lenses or eye exercises can be prescribed to help.

Many children are examined annually if there is a family history of eye problems, and children who need spectacles are often seen every 6 months. Your child is an individual and the retest schedule will be advised accordingly.

Do I have to pay for my child's eye test?

The NHS pay for the sight test for children. We recommend an extended eye examination for children as young as possible so we can tell that the retina (the back of the eye) is healthy. Children can develop a rare cancer of the eye called retinoblastoma and this can be difficult to detect unless a good view of the retina is possible.

What if my child needs glasses?

It is vital that children have comfortable spectacles that they are happy to wear - or they won't use them when they need to! We take a lot of time and care to get it right for both your child's needs and your budget.

The NHS gives all children a voucher towards the cost of their spectacles, and we have chosen a large range of inexpensive spectacle frames particularly for young faces with soft nose pads and sprung sides to help keep them comfy and in shape. Our qualified dispensing opticians will help you and your child with frame selection and fitting.

My child is dyslexic - what special tests are available to help?

In addition to a full eye examination, we check dyslexic children very carefully for imbalances in the ocular muscles and problems with maintaining clear focus. Many also may benefit from specially prescribed tints in spectacles which can be prescribed individually following use of the Intuitive Colorimeter.

What problems might a child have with their vision?

Very young children tend to be longsighted and sometimes this can cause one of the eyes to turn in a condition called squint or strabismus.

Astigmatism may also occur in young children, and correction at an early stage is essential for healthy visual development.

During teenage years, children typically may start to become myopic (shortsighted) and begin to have problems seeing the board at school. Many do not tell parents until they are really struggling, preferring to copy off their friends.

At what age can a child be fitted with contact lenses?

This depends very much on the individual child. We have fitted as young as 8 or 9 for severely shortsighted children, but most are 13 and over. Contrary to what parents might think, most children are very good at handling and caring for their lenses.