How do I know if my child has a problem with their vision?

Dr Brendan McCreesh,

principal optician Ph.D BSc MCOptom

During the first twelve years of our lives as much as eighty percent of learning is accomplished through our vision. Yet research has shown that one in five children have an undetected vision problem. As a parent we all want the best for our child and will go to all lengths to ensure they are healthy. We will often bring our child to the GP or dentist if they are complaining or in pain. But how do we know if our child has a problem with their eyesight?

Some eye conditions can be obvious to a parent that there is a problem with their child’s  sight. If a child prefers to sit close to the TV or is prone to bumping into things, this can often be due to an undetected eye problem. A more subtle observation is if your child’s  eye drifts inwards or outwards. This is more noticeable when the child is tired or later in the evening. If in doubt, it is a good idea to take a photograph of your child’s face at various times of the day or when your child is doing different tasks such as playing board games or playing outside. Comparing photographs of the position of the eyes during these tasks can also flag up a potential eyesight problem. Other less obvious signs include if your child has difficulty concentrating, complains of headaches or rubs their eyes a lot.

The most difficult condition for a parent to identify is a ‘lazy eye’. This is where the vision in one eye is reduced compared to the other one.  A child will show no signs or symptoms with this condition and hence it is often not detected until the child is checked at school by the school nurse. This usually can be corrected with glasses. However, sometimes the child has to wear a patch over the ‘good eye’ to make the ‘lazy eye’ work more. Like many health conditions the sooner any eye defect is detected and treated the better the outcome.