At what age should children have their first eye test?
As many of you may know, Luana who has worked for Respectacle Company for a couple of years is currently on maternity leave. She gave birth to a bouncing baby boy last month and we’re pleased to say both are doing well.
Bringing a new life into the world comes with huge responsibilities, and looking after their health and wellbeing is a top priority for new parents. And that includes making sure their eyes are healthy. Fortunately eye checks are part of their routine developmental assessment.
Within the first day of the new-born’s life they will be checked for any obvious problems with their eyes as part of the new-born physical examination. Babies can’t focus at this stage but the examination checks for any physical and obvious problems. Incidentally, did you know that most babies are born with blue eyes? This is because the darker pigments found in the iris aren’t completely developed at birth. So over time the baby’s eyes may change colour as the pigment develops.
Over the next few weeks, babies start to focus on objects and when they are around six weeks old they are at a stage where they can focus to about 30 centimetres. It’s then that they will start to recognise the faces around them. At this age they should have another health check with their health visitor, which will include checking their eyes for any obvious problems. Although visual problems in children are rare, the earlier they’re diagnosed the earlier they can receive treatment and support.
Over the next couple of years, the child has several general health reviews and check ups to check their development. During these examinations parents will be asked if they have any concerns regarding their child’s eyesight. Further investigations and screening can be carried out if necessary.
It’s advisable to have your child’s eyes examined by an Optometrist at around the age of four or five, just before they start school. During the eye examination a number of tests will be carried out. The Optometrist will check the overall health of your child’s eye and also if there is any reduction in vision in one or both eyes.
So what happens during the eye examination?
The red reflex test
An ophthalmoscope is used to magnify the eye and a light is used to examine the eye clearly. When the light is shone into the eye a red reflection should be seen reflecting back into the instrument. The red reflex test is normally carried out alongside a number of other general eye health check tests.
The pupil reflex test
The pupil reflex test involves a light being shone into each eye to check that the pupils are reacting properly. When the light is shone the pupils should automatically shrink.
Attention to visual objects
This is when the Optometrist checks that the eyes are working together and can focus and follow an object as it moves into different positions. It is carried out to check that the muscles in the eyes are working correctly.
Once the child can recognise letters, this test can be used. It involves focusing on rows of letters or symbols of decreasing sizes.
The Optometrist checks to see if the child needs spectacles to improve their vision. The prescription is determined by placing different power lenses in front of the child’s eye and asking them to read different letters.
Colour vision deficiency test
This is normally carried out if a problem is suspected or colour blindness is already detected within the family. It involves looking at images made up of many dots in different colours to see if the child can see the image within the dots.
All children under the age of 16 (and under 19 in full time education) in the UK are entitled to free eye examinations under the NHS. Although childhood eye conditions are rare the earlier they are detected the earlier they can be treated. Children may not realise they have a visual problem so it is important to have regular eye examinations with a registered Optometrist to monitor your child’s eye health.
If your child requires an eye health examination, please get in touch with us to book an appointment with our Optometrist. You can do so by calling 01858 433 577, popping into our optical store on Manor Walk or by filling out our online appointment booking form.