An eye examination can be performed at any age (from birth) and the child does not have to be able to read or talk.

The earlier any problems are picked up, the better the outcome. If a problem is not detected until later in life, 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 any history of squint or lazy eye in the family, do not wait for the vision screening at school (usually between ages of 4 or 5). Bring your child in for a free NHS eye examination.

Don’t expect your child to tell you if there is a problem.

Signs to look out for:

Baby eyes and vision

Babies can see when they are born, but not completely in focus. Under normal circumstances the vision improves gradually, and after about six weeks they should be able to follow something colourful or interesting with their eyes. A simple test at home that be done after six weeks old is to see if your baby’s eyes follow you around a room, if not this could suggest a problem.

A baby’s eye may squint (turn in or out) sometimes as the muscles are still developing around the eyes, however if this is happening regularly it should be investigated more thoroughly.

If you suspect any problems or just want some reassurance, do not hesitate to have your babies eyes examined.

Long-sightedness (hypermetropia) and Short-sightedness (myopia)

Images of objects need to be focused on the retina (back of the eye) to be seen clearly. If the image focuses behind the retina, they are long-sighted and have to focus more than they should do, particularly on things that are close up. Whereas, if the image focuses in front of the retina, they are short-sighted and will not be able to see things far away from them.

Both conditions can run in families and are easily corrected with glasses and/or contact lenses.


Astigmatism is to do with the shape of the eye. If the shape of the eye is more like a rugby ball than a football, light rays are focused on more than one place and hence the image is out of focus. This makes it harder to distinguish letters and can effect both distance and near vision.

Common symptoms of uncorrected astigmatism includes eye strain, variable vision, headaches, migraines and dizziness after concentration.

Astigmatism can be corrected with glasses and/or contact lenses.

Lazy eye (Amblyopia) and Squint (Strabismus)

Approximately 2-3% of all children have a lazy eye, which may be due to one eye being significantly more short- or long-sighted than the other. Alternatively they may have a squint (the eyes are not aligned).

If the child appears to have a squint in the eye after six weeks old, the eyes should be examined as soon as possible. The sooner a problem is detected and treated, the more likely they are to have good vision. After around the age of 7, it becomes much more difficult to attain normal vision, although some improvement can be made.

Treatment will depend on what is causing the lazy eye. It could be as simple as the child needs glasses, however if the child has a squint an operation may be required to straighten the eyes, which can take place as early as a few months of age.   

Colour blindness

Around 8% of men and 0.5% of women have some sort of problem with their colour vision. Although there is no cure for abnormal colour vision, certain measures can be taken to help children with this condition, such as informing the teacher, so that they use appropriate colours. 

Ultraviolet (UV) Light

There is evidence that too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can contribute to the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Make sure your sunglasses have UV protection and carry the British Standard (BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013) or CE mark.

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