Children and eyecare
Children and eyecare
- Should I get my child’s eyes tested?
Has your child had their eyes tested?
If you’ve been told that your child is too young, you should only get their eyes tested if they have a problem, or they have to be able to read to have an eye test, read on so your child doesn’t miss out on a vital health check.
Opticians can look after the eyes of children, toddlers and even babies. Often, the sooner an eye problem is detected, the better. So if you have any concerns about your child’s eyes, the first step is to speak to your local optician. If you don’t already attend an optical practice yourself, ask friends for recommendations. Some practices specialise in eye care for small children, while others are well set up for children with special needs so there is no need for any child to miss out on eye care.
Find an optician in your area click here.
- When should I get my child’s eyes tested?
If you’re wondering when to start getting your child’s eyes checked, do make sure that they are seen as a toddler, well before they start school. Some eye conditions can be treated more effectively if they are discovered by the age of three.
Things to look out for:
- Children screwing their eyes up or rubbing their eyes
- Children who are clumsy, bump into things
- Children who have problems with coordination eg catching or kicking a ball
- Children sitting very close to the TV or with their nose too close to a page to read
- Children who refuse to read or have difficulties concentrating
- A child that perceives that text on a page doesn’t stay in a straight line but slopes
- A child who is introverted or a “day-dreamer”
- A child who is disruptive or have a short attention span
- A child undergoing long-term medication – there are a number of different medications which children which may have eye-related side effects and could impact negatively on healthy sight eg steroids, ADHD drugs, anti-bedwetting drugs, antihistamines, anti-depressants)
- Children complaining of headaches – most headaches don’t have an ocular cause; however some children may have an uncorrected refractive error and/or they may have a binocular vision problem that causes headache
- How much does it cost to take my child for an eye test?
If you’re concerned about the cost of an eye test for your child, don’t worry! Children under sixteen, as well as those aged 16-18 in full time education get the cost of their eye test covered by the NHS. Children in these groups will also get a voucher towards the cost of a pair of spectacles.
- How often should my child have their eyes tested?
Once your child has had their eyes checked, the optician will let you know how often they need to visit. For many people, every two years is fine, but they may suggest your child visits every six months or every year, depending on their particular needs.
- Who can help me choose glasses for my child?
Did you know that a registered dispensing optician is the best person to help you get glasses for your child?
A dispensing optician is trained to help you choose a frame that fits well, as well as one that appeals to your child. There is plenty of choice of fun, funky and fashionable frames now. Allow time to browse and choose with your child.
Beyond frames, there are different types of lenses available, and your dispensing optician can guide your choices there too. Some children will benefit from thinner lenses, while others will want stronger lenses and well-designed frames that make it safe to play all sorts of sports. The optician can also discuss the option of contact lenses which will appeal to older children.
Ask your local optical practice if you can speak to a dispensing optician when you next need eye care advice or spectacles for your child.
- Do your child’s specs fit well, or are they always slipping down their face?
Well fitted specs
Every child deserves to have glasses that fit well: specs that slip don’t do their job as your child won’t be looking through the centre of the lenses. What’s more, if your child’s specs aren’t comfy, they won’t want to wear them.
So, what do you do if you think that your child’s glasses don’t fit? Start by going back to the practice where you got them. Ask to see the dispensing optician: they are specially trained to fit spectacles and will be able to adjust the frames for the best fit. Don’t be embarrassed to go back more than once: some children need their specs adjusting every few months as they get out of shape with the rough and tumble of everyday life.
- Children who wear glasses and sport
Wearing glasses shouldn’t stop your child taking part in a whole range of sports. If you feel that your child is being held back from sports by their eye wear, talk to your dispensing optician. A dispensing optician is trained to solve all sorts of eye wear issues, and knows the best frames and lenses to help your child. They can also discuss the option of contact lenses which will suit children as they get older.
When choosing specs for a child, ask about polycarbonate and Trivex lenses: both are more robust than regular plastic lenses. Plastic frames, without adjustable pad arms, can be the safer choice, and there are specific frames designed for sport too. Think about getting a sport band for your child to hold their specs in place.
With the right specs or lenses, your child can go on enjoying all the sports that they love.
- Children and contact lenses
Does your child love their glasses?
With more fun and funky frames on offer, often customised with favourite characters, small children can look on glasses as a great accessory. As they get older, though, they may want to think about contact lenses, whether it is for appearance, to make it easier to play sport, or even to fit in with friends. These are all important reasons to the child, and can help them be really motivated to wear contact lenses.
So, what’s the next step?
Whatever your child’s age and motivation, the next thing to do is to pop into your local optical practice. Ask to speak to the optometrist, contact lens optician or dispensing optician. They can advise you and your child about what wearing contact lenses involves. If you want to go ahead, you can then book a contact lens trial where your child can learn more about lenses and try them out.
- What age can my child start wearing contact lenses?
There is no fixed age for children to start wearing lenses, but here are a few factors to consider. Getting used to contact lenses can take a little while. Your child needs to be motivated to learn how to put the lenses in and out: they need to be able to do this themselves. They also need a certain amount of discipline: it’s important not to wear the lenses for too many hours, so think about whether your child can do this. There is also a routine to learn for keeping the lenses clean and hygienic. While disposable lenses make life easier, nothing can get rid of the need to wash your hands every time you put the lenses in or out.
The younger the child, the more you will need to help with reminders about cleanliness and wear-time. A child who is motivated to wear lenses by the love of a hobby like horse-riding or ballet might be ready to start wearing lenses from the age of seven or eight, but ask your optician who can give you advice tailored to your child.
- Worried about squint or lazy eye? – Get the facts
If there is a big difference between your child’s eyes, one eye may do more work than the other. Over time, the less-used eye can become lazy, which is known as amblyopia. A squint occurs when the eyes do not work well together, and consequently one eye may appear to drift out or in, especially when your child is tired. This can lead to one eye working less well than the other.
Squint and lazy eye can be detected during an eye test. The optometrist will check each eye, and will also test how they work together. It is important to get your child’s eyes checked as a toddler. Detecting a lazy eye at this stage means that treatment will be as effective as possible as the eye is still developing.
If the optometrist thinks your child has a squint or lazy eye, they may be prescribed spectacles, which can help straighten a squint. Your child may also be referred to the hospital to see an orthoptist. The orthoptist may suggest ‘patching’; covering the better eye to encourage the lazy eye to work. They may prescribe exercises to help your child’s eyes work together. Some children may also be offered surgery to improve the way the eyes co-ordinate.
So, act now. Make sure your toddler gets a thorough eye examination at your local optical practice. Picked up early, squint and lazy eye can be treated so your child’s vision develops properly.
- My child wears specs, what are their options when playing sport?
If your child wears glasses, they can seem hazardous when playing sport. Get the right product and advice from your optician, however, and they can help protect your eyes. In general, plastic or CR39, lenses are safer than glass. Your optician will also recommend polycarbonate and Trivex materials as they are safer and stronger than regular plastic lenses.
Any conventional spectacle frame, without adjustable pad arms as found on most metal spectacle frames, can be suitable for sport. It should cover your child’s orbit, the bony rim round the eye, and be worn with a sports band attachment. There are wrap-around frames with full cushioning which are purpose-designed for sport and will give optimum safety and comfort.
If there are no contra indications, contact lenses are an excellent alternative to wearing spectacles and offer a safe alternative to glasses when you are playing sports.
Visit your local optical practice and speak to the registered dispensing optician who can help you find the best solution so your child can see well and stay safe while playing sports.