A new-born baby will inherit both their eye shape and eye colour from their parents and if either parent has a family history of eye problems, such as a lazy eye or squint, the baby could inherit this condition too. For this reason it is important that your child has a minimum of three eye checks before they begin school, including an eight week check and a pre-school vision test.
We ask Miss R. Jane Leitch, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at The Portland Hospital, to explain what these eye tests on children should involve, when they should be carried out and by whom.
When should my child have their first eye test?
A baby’s first eye examination should be carried out in the immediate neonatal period. This will usually be carried out by a member of the obstetric or paediatric team who will look for any obvious abnormality in a child’s eyes and eyelids, and make sure that anything unusual is referred to an ophthalmologist (eye doctor).
Will my child need an additional eye examination before their first birthday?
Your baby should also have their eye health tested when they are eight weeks old. The eight week eye health check is usually carried out by your GP or possibly your health visitor.
If there is a strong family history of early glasses wear or having a squint (where the eyes deviate) it may be advisable to have a check with a paediatric ophthalmologist for a more detailed visual assessment.
What does the eight week eye health test check for?
The purpose of this eye test is to make sure that your baby has developed their ability to ‘fix and follow’.
It is usually the mother’s face that the baby will first start to fix on, particularly when feeding, and this tends to happen when they are six weeks old. If your baby has been born prematurely, then fixing on should be established six weeks post term, rather than from birth.
How is the eight week eye health test conducted?
The eight week vision test involves observing the baby’s visual behaviour to make sure that they are fixing and following.
During this test an ophthalmoscope will also be shone into your baby’s eyes which will allow the tester to see if there are any abnormalities at the back of your child’s eyes.
Are there any symptoms I should monitor my child’s eye health for?
Before your child is three months old your baby’s eyes may cross or drift intermittently but after three months of age your baby’s eyes should look straight ahead. If you have any concerns that your baby’s eyes are deviating excessively, then it is a good idea to have this checked by a GP or Paediatric Ophthalmologist
When should children have their first formal eye test?
The first formal test for vision is recommended between four and five years of age. At this age children, if they do not know their letters, will happily perform a letter matching test. This test will usually be carried out by an orthoptist and may automatically occur within the school or community setting.
The purpose of this vision test is to detect a lazy eye. A lazy eye is an eye that does not see well, but is otherwise healthy. This is treatable at the age of four to five years, but if it is picked up later treatment may have limited success.
Where can I go for more information?
For further information, or if you have any specific queries about your child's eye health or eye tests for children, please contact the Portland Hospital Eye Clinic on 020 7387 4072.