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Your child's eye tests

Babies first have their eyes checked within 72 hours of being born, and again at their six-to-eight week check by their GP or health visitor.

As part of routine checks for the child's Personal Child Health Record (PCHR), eye tests during their first year include:

  • Eyes following a colourful or interesting object or face at around 6-8 weeks old.
  • Reach for things they see at 2-3 months old.
  • Starting to copy facial expressions and taking a closer look at things at around 3-5 months old.
  • Focusing on things near and far away and looking at pictures and drawings from 6- 12 months old.

In some areas of the country, a child's eyes may be checked again when they start primary school.

Eye checks can be done at other times if parents have concerns.

From the age of five, children can visit an optician for a free eye test. These tests are free up to the age of 16 and for full-time students under 19. The NHS says it is worth having regular eye checks with an optician, even if you and your child are not aware of any problems.

How do I prepare my child for an eye test?

Make time to sit down and explain to your child what will happen during their eye test. Make sure your child knows that he or she will be asked to look at and identify objects for the eye doctor. These could be random pictures, letters or shapes of light on the wall. Also explain that the eye doctor may put drops in his or her eyes, but that it will not hurt.

What tests will be done on my child's eyes?

Babies are examined for any obvious problems such as cross-eyes, cloudiness (a sign of cataracts) and redness. A light is shone into the baby’s eyes to check pupil reflex. The midwife, or your doctor, will also check the baby pays attention and his or her eyes follow an object which is passed in front of them. An opthalmoscope (a magnifying instrument with a light on the end) is shone in the baby’s eyes to check there is a red reflection. If the reflection is white the baby will be referred to a specialist who will check for signs of cataracts and other eye conditions.

When your child starts primary school at age four or five, charts with rows of letters of decreasing sizes will be held up and your child will be asked to read out as many of the letters as he or she can see. These are called Snellen charts or logMAR cards.

Your child will also be checked for the range of movement they have in each eye and how well their eyes follow a moving object.

Your child is usually not tested for colour-blindness until they are 11 or unless a problem is suspected. Typically, the Ishihara colour vision tests will be used and involve images made up of two different colours of dots. If your child’s colour vision is normal, they will be able to recognise the letter or number that is highlighted. If they cannot tell the difference between two colours (such as red and green) and so cannot see the picture, they may have a colour vision problem.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 23, 2016

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