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Children’s Vision

As soon as a baby is born it can see, although not very clearly at first. The eyes need to receive visual information in order to develop, as do the areas of the brain responsible for processing vision. This development takes place throughout the early years of childhood, up until about 8 years of age.

If anything interferes with this process it can have an effect on how the eyes develop. For example if one eye turns in or out (known as a ‘squint’ or ‘strabismus’), if the two eyes have different prescriptions, or with congenital abnormalities such as a congenital cataract. If any of these things occur, then often one or both eyes will not develop fully, leading to a ‘lazy’ eye (known as ‘amblyopia’). There are treatments which can encourage the lazy eye to develop normally but these treatments must take place before the age of 8. After this age, the eyes have stopped developing and treatments are no longer effective; it cannot be corrected later even with strong spectacle lenses.

As such, it is highly recommended that children have at least one eye examination before they start school to ensure that the eyes are developing equally and normally. Children do not need to be able to identify letters in order to have an eye examination – we have a variety of different methods of testing the eyes. If there are any concerns – for example if you notice that your child’s eye turns in or out, or if there are indications that they are not seeing properly, then book an eye examination as soon as possible. As with many forms of treatment, the earlier treatment is started the greater the chance of a successful outcome.

The eyes do continue to change throughout childhood and early adolescence, and this is often when short-sightedness (‘myopia’) develops. So if the board at school becomes difficult to see or if children are moving to sit closer to the television, book an eye examination. Any problems with close vision, such as problems reading or headaches developing during or after close vision tasks, may indicate long-sightedness (‘hyperopia’).

Often vision problems run in families, so if either parent wears glasses or had vision problems as a child be particularly aware of your children’s eyes.

Further information on children’s eyes can be found by clicking here.

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