Children who are short-sighted have difficulty seeing things that are far away, such as the TV or the board at school. Research suggests that short-sightedness is twice as common in the UK now compared with 50 years ago, and children are becoming short-sighted at a younger age. If the eyes grow too much the child will become short-sighted. Children with parents who are short-sighted are more at risk of developing the condition, so we recommend that these children have their eyes examined regularly throughout primary school.
Get out in the fresh air! Scientific studies have shown that children who spend time outdoors are less likely to be short-sighted. However, make sure you protect your children’s eyes from the sun with sunglasses carrying the British Standard (BS EN ISO 12312- 2013) or CE mark, or a wide-brimmed hat, as prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light may damage their eyes and cause problems in later life.
Children who are long-sighted have to focus more, than people who are not long-sighted, particularly on things that are close up. A certain degree of long sight is quite normal in children, and because they have lots of focussing power when they are young, they are still able to see clearly. It is therefore normal for a child to be long-sighted and not need glasses. However, if your child is very long-sighted, one eye may turn in as they try to focus on things and they will need glasses to correct this and prevent lazy eye (amblyopia).
Astigmatism occurs when your child’s eye is shaped more like a rugby ball rather than a football and can make vision blurred or distorted. It is very common, and not very serious, and can be easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses. It can cause headaches, particularly when your child is focussing on something for a long time, for example a book or a screen.
Severe astigmatism can lead to one or both eyes becoming lazy, if it is not corrected. It is therefore important that you take your child to an optometrist if you notice them having problems with their eyes, especially if other people in the family needed to wear glasses when they were young children.
About one in 8 boys and one in 250 girls perceive colours differently from other people and may confuse certain groups of colours. Younger children may say that food looks unappealing, while older children may confuse the red and green lights on their games console. Your optometrist will be able to advise if your child is colour blind.
Around one in 50, of all children have a lazy eye. This may be because they have one eye that is weaker than the other because it is much more short-sighted or long-sighted, or because they have a squint.
Your optometrist will prescribe glasses to correct the vision in the weaker eye or, if the weak eye is not responding, then a patch worn over the good eye for a few hours each day will force the weaker eye to work.
If flash photographs of your child show a white colour in their pupil, or red eye in only one eye, rather than both, when they looking straight at the camera, you should ask your optometrist for more information. These could be signs of a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma.
If your child’s eyes are looking in different directions they may have a squint. About 2-3% of children will have a squint, and you are more likely to have a squint if it runs in your family. Children who are long sighted may have a squint without their glasses because their eyes over focus to see things