Eye screening for children

Jane Ashworth and Susmito Biswas are the children’s eye specialist at the Cheshire Eye Clinic and the Paeditaric Training Program Director for Ophthalmology at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

Jane says all babies will have eye screening at birth and again at about six weeks of age by a GP or health visitor. In most parts of England, children are offered a screening test to look for reduced vision in one or both eyes during their first year at school. If they do not pass this screening they will be referred to a specialist eye test at their local NHS trust. They will see an orthoptist (specialist in childrens eyes) who will take them through a further test.

Signs a child has a problem with their sight include:

  • sitting too close to the TV or insisting on watching TV in the dark
  • rubbing their eyes a lot
  • holding objects very close to their face
  • blinking a lot
  • problems moving around in the dark, such as when entering a tunnel or at the cinema
  • showing signs of a squint – where the eyes don’t look in the same direction; one eye may turn inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards, while the other eye looks forward

Children don’t have to be able to read to have their eyes examined. It’s possible to tell whether a child has a squint or needs glasses without asking them any questions using age-appropriate tests and equipment. If the eye test detects any problems, your child will be referred to an orthoptist, who’s part of the eyecare team and usually works alongside ophthalmologists and optometrists. Orthoptists work in local health clinics or hospital eye clinics. If you wish for your child to be seen privately please contact either Jane Ashworth or Susmito Biswas at Cheshire Eye Clinic using our contact form below.

Why do we use eyedrops in a childs eye test?

Some children, especially younger ones, might need eyedrops for their eye test (dilation). This is important because it helps to make sure the correct glasses are given and the specialist can have a clear look at the internal structure of the eye. The drops sting, but the discomfort doesn’t last for more than a few seconds. Your child will then be asked to wait for a short while whilst the eye drops get to work.

These eyedrops make the pupils larger so the back of the eye can be seen properly. They also relax the focus in the eye so the diagnosis can be as accurate as possible. Once the drops start working, your child might become sensitive to light. You could bring sunglasses just in case. Some children may also feel that their vision is blurred or fuzzy. Again, this is because the drops stop the focusing mechanism working. It’s not possible to reverse the effect of the eye drops, but they usually wear off after 6 to 10 hours and are gone fully after a good nights sleep.


Childrens Eyes

Cheshire Eye Clinic’s tips for looking after your childs eye health.

Having regular eye tests –  at least every two years (unless you’re advised otherwise by your optometrist) – are essential to ensure your child’s eyes stay healthy.

Eye tests will ensure any problems such as childhood conditions like squint, amblyopia (lazy eye), hyperopia (long-sightedness) or myopia (short-sightedness) are picked up early. The sooner problems are identified, potentially the better the treatment outcome.

Remember, eye tests are free and funded by NHS for all children under 16 years and if they require vision correction (glasses or contact lenses) you’ll be entitled to an optical voucher towards the cost of this too!