The NHS normally screens children’s eyesight at ages 4 or 5 as they begin primary school but growing up in a pandemic has meant that some regular checkups may have been missed.
Some conditions affecting your child’s eyesight may not be that obvious to you as a parent especially if one of their eyes is stronger than the other. This is especially the case with a “Lazy” eye, also known as amblyopia, an early childhood condition in which children’s eyesight does not develop as it should in one eye.
Lazy eye is the leading cause of decreased vision among children. While there can be symptoms such as squinting, a wandering eye, eyes that appear not to work together, poor depth perception, and head tilting, sometimes there are no visible symptoms.
When a child has amblyopia, their brain will focus on one eye more than the other, ignoring the poor quality images from the “lazy eye”. Eventually, your child’s eyes can lose their ability to work together.
If untreated, a lazy eye can cause permanent vision loss.
It is free to get your child’s eyes tested and early diagnosis and treatment can help to prevent long-term problems with children’s eyesight. Normally, the eye with poorer vision can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, and/or patching therapy.
The first 7-10 years of life are crucial for children’s eyesight. Early treatment is key because this is when they develop connections between the eye and brain.
Finding out My Son Has a Lazy Eye
When I went for my much delayed routine eye test, I noticed a blurry sign on the wall of my optician’s office questioning if I really knew what it was like to see through my son’s eyes.
My 6 year old had never complained about not being able to see so I thought little of it but decided to get his eyesight checked out just in case. I had assumed that like his hearing and his teeth, there would have been some kind of screening.
I was very shocked to find out that his eyesight in his left eye was testing at -3.75 while his right eye was almost perfect. The right eye was doing all the heavy lifting so we hadn’t noticed. The optician we saw seemed to think there was little that could be done for him.
I was so distraught that I had missed this and spent the evening consulting doctor Google desperate to find a more optimistic prognosis. What I read prompted me to take immediate action as the consensus seemed to be that after age 7 the treatment can become much less effective. We booked him in to see a paediatric optician at a local hospital.
After his appointment, he came home with a prescription for glasses. I was amazed at how well he took to them. They certainly made him look much more grown up! After wearing the glasses for 12 weeks he went back for a follow up appointment. During this time his eyesight had improved but we were told that he would need to wear an eyepatch for 2 hours per day for 50 days.
We are still in the middle of eye patching but the process has been much easier than I had thought and my son has said he is starting to notice an improvement.
Children’s eyesight can affect their life chances in many ways. Parents have seen that when their children receive the medical treatment they need, they’ve not only found school work easier but in some cases have also overcome behavioural issues. 15-20% of kids have poor eyesight in one or both eyes, a number that is rising due to the pandemic and consequent increases in screen time.
I hope to help at least one child get the care they need by sharing our experience.