Although babies can see as soon as they are born, their eyes don’t always focus correctly. If you notice that your baby is regularly squinting, seek investigation from your optometrist.
Babies’ eyes develop gradually and it is not until about six weeks that they are able to follow anything colourful or detailed with their sight. When a baby has reached this age, you can undertake an easy test to discover if your baby is able to follow you around the room with their eyes. If they aren’t able to focus accurately or if their eyes wander, this could suggest a problem. Another simple test you could do is to cover each of your baby’s eyes in turn and if they are uncomfortable with having one eye covered more than they are the other then this could suggest a problem with the vision in one eye.
As they get older, point out objects that are close up and far away and monitor to see if their struggle to focus on the object. If you uncover issues with their focusing, seek advice from your optometrist.
Long- and short-sightedness.
When light enters the eye it needs to be focused on the back of the eye, known as your retina, for you to see clearly. Some children have eyes which are too short, causing this light to focus behind the retina, causing long-sightedness. This means that it is more difficult for them to focus on close-up objects. Other children have eyes which are too long, causing the light to focus in front of the retina, meaning they are short-sighted. This means that they cannot see objects clearly if they are positioned faraway, such as whiteboards in class. Both of these conditions can run in families.
Some eyes are shaped more like a rugby ball rather than a spherical football. In this case, light rays become focused in more than one place of the eye to cause vision distortion. This can make it hard for children to understand the difference between a ‘H’ and an ‘N’ on a page, for example. A child may feel strange wearing the glasses recommended for this condition but their vision clarity will be improved.
Lazy eye and squint
Around 2-3% of children have a lazy eye which is known as Amblyopia. This condition can be caused by the child having one eye that is more short or long-sighted than the other or because they have a squint. If you notice that your child has a squint after they are six weeks old then it is advisable to have their eyes checked by an optometrist.
It is important to notice the condition early, to make treatment much more effective and a child’s vision may be permanently damaged if the condition is not noticed before they are seven or eight. To avoid this, the NHS recommends that all children should undergo vision screening in their first year of school. This is important as many children will not realise they have a lazy eye and parents may be unable to notice it.
Treatment for children with a lazy eye may include glasses to correct vision, a small operation, eye drops or the use of a patch to encourage sight in the weaker eye.
As many as one in 12 men and one in 200 women suffer from a problem with their colour vision. There is no cure to colour blindness but if you suspect that your child does have the problem, seek advice from your optometrist. Measures can be put in place to help your child with the problem, for example, teachers can be asked to use appropriate colours in class.
Protection from Sunlight
It is important to protect your child’s eyes from the sun as evidence has shown that too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can increase the chances of Cataracts and Macular Degeneration developing. Children are likely to spend a lot of time outside but to ensure their eyes are protected, provide them with 100% UV protection glasses that are British Standard and carry the CE mark. Hats or sun visors can also be helpful.