Eye examinations for children are particularly important because they may reveal a sight condition that, if left unchecked, may seriously hamper a child’s development.

The NHS provides initial sight testing for babies and recommends regular eye examinations with an optometrist after the age of three years. At four, the child will have just entered school, or will be about to, and having normal eyesight is important to the child’s education as well as the rest of its development. It is therefore essential that any problem is identified before school, and that the eyes are re-checked at regular intervals throughout the school years.  It is not necessary for a child to be able to read before having an eye examination.  The optometrist’s skills allow defects to be recognised by using instruments and with simple tests that are appropriate to the child’s ability.  It is particularly important for the optometrist to ensure that both eyes are developing equally and with binocular three-dimensional vision.

Here at Patricia Hayselden and Partners, we make going to the Opticians a fun experience. The eye examination tests are just like playing games.  We also welcome adults with learning disabilities, who may also require the eye examination to be tailored to their ability.

Some common eye conditions found in children:

Amblyopia / ‘Lazy Eye’
This is a fairly common condition in children, where the brain’s development concerning sight has been hampered in some way, when the visual stimulation of the brain, via the optic nerve, is interrupted or incomplete – because of the need for refractive correction (e.g. spectacles) for example. It can also occur when the brain ‘turns off’ visual processing for one eye in order to avoid double vision (if a squint is present – see below) or blurring (usually when one eye is much more out of focus than the other). Early detection of amblyopia, preferably before age five, increases the likelihood of successful treatment.
Strabismus / Squint
A strabismus or squint is when the eyes are misaligned, and look in different directions. It can be caused by a problem with the eye muscles, or by a sight condition such as long- or short-sightedness that has gone uncorrected. Other causes include childhood illnesses such as measles, or certain brain conditions. Most commonly, one eye turns in too much (convergent strabismus), but a squint could be divergent (turning out) instead. Squints are fairly common in children and usually develop before the age of three. Many babies squint as their vision develops, but if your child still appears to have a squint after four months, you should visit arrange to see one of our optometrists or your GP. It is important that squints are detected and treated promptly to avoid further vision development problems. For more information on squints and squint correction, see www.squintclinic.com.
Myopia / Short-sightedness
Short-sightedness causes distant objects to appear blurred, so it can be a real problem for children in class as they might not be able to see the board clearly. It can also make sports and other activities difficult too. Most cases of short-sightedness are caused when normal growth of the eye is disrupted by genetic and environmental conditions. Spectacles are the main treatment for short-sightedness in children.
Hyperopia / Long-sightedness
Also known as Hypermetropia, long-sightedness causes sufferers difficulty in focusing on near objects and, in severe cases, can cause a sufferer to be unable to focus on objects at any distance. Hyperopia typically has a genetic cause, involving an eye that is too short (from front to back) or a cornea that is too flat for images to focus on the retina. Symptoms of long-sightedness may include crossed eyes, headaches when reading, eye strain and aching eyes. For children, long-sightedness is typically corrected with spectacles.
Astigmatism is a defect in which vision is blurred or distorted, usually due to an irregular curvature of the cornea or lens within the eye. Astigmatic children can struggle to see things clearly at any distance, so affecting school work and learning. Astigmatism is usually corrected with spectacles.
Colour Deficiency
Colour deficiency (commonly called ‘colour-blindness’) can make it hard to distinguish shapes and objects of certain colour shades, because the colour receptors in the eyes are confused or lacking. Most commonly, this affects shades of red and green,but often only affecting  pale colours. As colour deficiency is present from birth, a child will not know that he/she sees colours differently from how others see them. The first signs may be that the child struggles to learn their colours. 8% males are affected, and much fewer females. The condition is hereditary, usually passed to the child from the maternal grandfather.  It is important to discover the problem early, so that the school is aware.

Simple recognition tests, using images like this one, are used to determine the degree and type of colour deficiency.

Dyslexia and Visual Stress