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Back To School Eye Test

THIS SUMMER, DON’T FORGET TO GET YOUR CHILD’S EYE’S TESTED.

I am asked regularly by clients, “What age should my children have their eyes first tested?” The answer to this will vary from one child to another, but as a general guide, if their eyes appear straight, and the child seems to see everything well, then usually about 5 years old. It is likely to be in reception at school and may be carried out by the local community eye screening service.

If your child is younger and there appears to be problems with your child’s sight, or that the eyes appear to turn inward out outward, then get your child seen straight away, either at the opticians or directly with the community eye screening service.

Children who are identified in school as having problems with their eyes, will be either advised
to see a local optician, or may be referred to the community eye service for an appointment at one of the local health centres.

A child’s visual system continually develops up to about 7 years of age, so if a child should be wearing spectacles at a young age, it is necessary to do this whilst the brain is developing, so as early as possible. After 7, the child may be left with permanently reduced vision as a result of not wearing spectacles.

Children under 16 should have annual eye examinations, even if they don’t need spectacles. As children go through puberty, it is common for changes in the growth of the eye to cause shortsightedness. This will cause problems seeing in the distance, such as the board at school, TV guide or bus numbers.

This will cause problems seeing in the distance, such as the board at school, TV guide or bus numbers. Longsightedness is also common, and is often identified by difficulty reading, headaches when on computers or mobile phones, or tired, aching eyes. We often see children in early September who have moved up to secondary school who suddenly realise they can’t see the board in the bigger classrooms, yet were okay before the summer holidays in their smaller primary school class. Or that suffer eye strain because they have more homework to do.

Nowadays, children spend a lot of time on near focus, usually with school work, mobile phone use, watching films on tablets or playing computer games for hours. Continual near focus without breaks can cause eye strain, headaches, dry eyes and difficulty refocusing on distant objects.
If there is undetected long or short sight, or astigmatism, then the symptoms can be worse. Many children won’t admit to the problem because they don’t want the obvious answer of “you spend too much time on the XBOX, phone or tablet” so as parents you have to get their eyes checked regularly.

Children’s eye examinations are free on the NHS, and if spectacles are required, they are eligible for a voucher towards some or all of the costs. Why not get your child checked during the summer break so they are ready for school in September.

Martyn Allen is the owner-optometrist of Martyn Allen Opticians.

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