Protect your child's vision this Children's Eye Health and Safety Month

04 August 2022

Author: Kate Green

children's eye health

Understanding your child’s vision

 

August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, when a spotlight is shone onto kids’ eye health to discuss what we can do, as professionals and as parents, in order to protect their vision. Being aware of common vision problems children can face is particularly important as, relatively often, children cannot articulate exactly what is wrong with their vision. Further to this, if they’ve been dealing with a particular vision problem for most of their life, they may not even know that anything is wrong, having just accepted it as normal.

 

What do babies see throughout their first year?

 

Let’s start at the very beginning – it’s important for parents to know what’s normal in terms of their baby’s visual development, especially as this changes so much throughout their first year of life.

 

Newborn: Immediately after birth, babies can typically see outlines and shapes, as well as light and dark. They can’t see colour yet, which is why you might have heard that monochrome patterns are particularly good for newborn babies, while their vision is limited to black, white and grey. Once your baby is a couple of weeks old, they will start to be able to focus on faces and respond to movement.

 

10 weeks: From this point, your baby should start to recognise your face – a joyous moment for any parent! While their vision is still blurry, babies also start fixating on objects around the 10-12 week mark.

 

3-4 months: This is an important point in a baby’s visual development as they can start tracking moving objects at this time. Babies will also start reaching for moving objects at this age as they start to develop depth perception. If your baby has looked slightly cross-eyed, that’s not abnormal in the first few weeks of life, while their eyes learn to work together. However, if you find that after around 4 months old they still look cross-eyed, mention it to your doctor. This could be an issue with their eye muscles.

 

4 months: This is when your baby’s colour vision really comes into its own, beginning with detection of red and green shades first. By five months old, they can see the full colour spectrum.

 

6 months: At half a year old, your baby’s vision is around 20/100 – still significantly worse than 20/20 which is standard good vision for adults. Your baby’s vision won’t reach adult levels of acuity until they’re around 5 years old.

 

8-12 months: At this age, your baby’s vision is no longer blurry and they should have a strong connection between their eyes and movement, with improved hand-eye coordination.

 

When should your child have an eye test?

 

Children typically have a series of eye tests throughout their first few years, usually at:

  • 1-3 days old
  • 6-8 weeks old
  • 1 year old
  • 4-5 years old (before starting full time education)

 

The first eye test your baby has is to ascertain that they haven’t been born with any congenital eye issues, such as cataracts or any impaired vision. Some eye issues can take a few weeks to develop which is why babies will have a second eye test around the 6-8 week mark. At a year old, your baby’s vision should no longer be blurry, so it’s a good time to test again to ensure that they can see clearly, and perhaps begin to look into prescribing glasses if they can’t.

 

Your child should also have another eye test around the age of 4-5 before they begin attending school full time. This way, any vision issues shouldn’t impact their education and tasks like reading books or seeing the whiteboard will be unimpeded. You can read about what to expect at a child’s eye test here.

 

Which eye conditions occur in children the most?

 

A number of the most common eye conditions in children are obvious and you’ll be able to see visible signs that they are suffering. However, plenty of visual problems that occur are not actually something you’ll be able to witness yourself. This is particularly true for issues that relate to a child’s prescription, such as astigmatism or double vision.

 

Issues which occur most frequently in young children include:

  • Strabismus (crossed eyes)
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Chalazion (red, swollen lump)
  • Blocked tear duct (often the cause of watery eyes)
  • Conjunctivitis (eye infection)
  • Astigmatism (blurry vision at all distances)
  • Double vision (seeing two of everything)
  • Ptosis (drooping upper eyelid)

 

You can read about the most common eye conditions in children on our blog, and discover how to identify and treat them in order to preserve their vision.

 

How do you know your child is struggling with their vision?

 

There are a number of signs to watch out for which might indicate that your child is struggling with their vision. Young children often find it hard to articulate exactly what the problem is with their vision, so it might be the case that they say nothing at all. If you notice any if the following behaviour or actions in your child, you should book them in for an eye test to assess their prescription:

  • Headaches
  • Complaining of dry eyes
  • Mentioning blurred vision
  • Squinting
  • Rubbing their eyes
  • Sitting close to the TV or holding their books close
  • Short attention span
  • Sensitive to light

 

Staying aware of your child’s behaviour and making sure they have regular eye tests will go a long way to ensuring that their eyes are in good health. As poor vision can have such an impact on their education, monitoring your child’s eye health really will give them the best start possible when they enter full time school. With the new school year not far away, you may also be interested in our blog post ‘Back to school? Back to the opticians!’


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