A child’s first visit to the opticians can be a daunting thought for young children, but knowing more about what to expect can help deal with any concerns they may have.
Has my child’s sight already been checked?
Babies have their eyes checked at birth and at their sixth week check. Many, but not all, school children will also have a test in their first year at school.
When should a child first visit the opticians?
It’s useful if they have an eye test before they start school so poor sight doesn’t hold them back. A child’s eyes are fully developed from about 8 years of age and it’s good if problems are picked up before this so that they can be treated early.
Do I have to pay for a child’s eye test?
No, this is available on the NHS.
What will the test involve?
First some details about your child’s medical and family history will be taken. The actual eye tests can be done in different ways, depending on circumstances and the equipment available, but you can expect some of the following:
- An examination of the retina and the blood vessels at back of the eye using an ophthalmoscope. This is done in a darkened room using the bright, focused light on the ophthalmoscope itself. An ophthalmoscope is a handheld piece of equipment which magnifies and lights enabling the health professional to see the retina and blood vessels.
- Using a test chart. This is where your child needs to read out the letters. Younger children, or those who don’t reliably know their letters, may be asked to identify drawings of animals instead. The optician will pop some special test glasses on and use different lenses with them to assess the child’s sight. Using these special glasses in a test does not mean that they will need glasses.
- A focusing test (to test near vision) using a series of texts with different sizes of print.
- A stereo vision test to test how the eyes work together. This involves putting on 3D glasses and looking at numbers or shapes.
Will the eye test hurt?
No, but sometimes drops will need to be put into the eyes, which is rarely very popular with children. The eye drops make the pupils larger, which makes it easier to see the back of the eye.