I often have mums ask me “what is the right age to get my child’s eyes tested.”
The answer is any age! Really! And no, it doesn’t matter if your child is too young to know their letters or numbers – we have charts with pictures for that. A visit to the optometrist at least once before your child starts school is definitely worth it.
Here are five of the most important reasons to go in for an eye test:
1) You think everything is okay
Vision problems are something that kids often won’t complain about. While they can tell you that they have a sore throat or feel sick in their tummy, they usually don’t have any idea about what poor eyesight is all about.
They just think that how they see is how everyone sees, and therefore couldn’t possibly tell you that something isn’t right with their vision.
And just to add to the concern, many eye problems need to be treated before your child reaches 8 years of age to have any hope of normal vision development!
2) You notice a turned eye
Having one or both eyes that turns inward or outwards is something that is best managed as soon as possible.
We really do need to get the eyes to align properly, because if they don’t your child may never develop true “binocular vision” where the eyes work properly together. A lack of binocular vision can make it difficult to study, pay attention in the classroom and play sports.
Eyes that turn can be managed with glasses, eye exercises, surgery or a combination of these. Surgery is not often required.
While sometimes kids have an eye that obviously turns, this is not always the case. It can be quite subtle, or can only happen when they are tired. It’s always worth getting it checked out!
3) Hand-eye coordination problems, clumsiness, or an unusual reaction in a 3D movie
When you go to the shoe shop, you might find that you have one foot that is bigger than the other. While I’m not a podiatrist here to comment on foot issues, I can definitely say that where one eye focuses differently to the other, it can cause a whole range of problems.
Problems that we can usually handle with the right glasses.
I once had a six year old girl whose mother brought her in for a routine eye test. When I found a big difference in how the eyes were focusing, I asked whether there were any difficulties her daughter was having with playing sports. The mum almost burst into tears as she was so relieved to know that there was a reason why her little girl kept missing the ball when playing tennis, and that we could do something about it!
I have also consulted with kids who have bruises on their shins from bumping into things, or have been labelled as “clumsy.” It’s been great since 3D movies have become more popular. Some kids will be brought in for an eye test because they have complained of headaches or haven’t experienced the effects everyone else does when they have gone to see a 3D movie. More possible signs of a focusing problem!
4) Family history of eye problems
A lot of parents are aware that colour vision problems are generally inherited.
What mums don’t know is that usually they are the ones who themselves will have normal colour vision, but carry the gene and can pass it onto their sons.
About 5% of boys will have a colour vision problem, and depending on the severity, it can impact on their career decisions. Aspirations of careers such as becoming as an electrician, a pilot, or joining the police force or the defence forces can be placed into jeopardy because of colour vision problems.
Focusing problems such as shortsightedness, longsightedness and astigmatism can also run in the family.
5) Difficulties with reading
It is quite normal for children to miss the occasional word here and there when they are learning to read as sometimes they will skip over longer words that they are unfamiliar with. However, if they are often skipping words or lines of text, or frequently losing their place, that could indicate an eye problem.
Have you taken your child for an eye test?