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Your child’s vision

Written with Dr Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, Consultant Ophthalmologist

15 May 2023

Good vision is important for children’s development, education and social interaction. Children who have a vision problem may lose interest in their work and may have difficulties taking part in activities. This can affect their confidence. We invite parents to take a close interest in their children’s vision, to enable them to fully engage with education and fun activities and realise their potential.

Keep up with your child’s regular eye tests

It is important to have your child’s vision checked at the age of 4-5 years. In most areas of the UK, a vision screening programme tests reception-class children at schools. In addition, NHS sight tests by local optometrists are free for children and young people under the age of 16 years. You may also look out for signs of a possible eye problem, for example headaches or eye-strain, poor hand-eye coordination, problems reading, or sitting too close to the TV. The first sight test at age 4-5 years is especially important, so that any vision defects can be treated before the part of the brain in charge of vision loses its ability to develop high-resolution vision.

Ensure children’s eye safety

Protect younger children’s eyes by ensuring that toys are age-appropriate and do not have sharp points or edges. In older children and young people make sure that they wear protective goggles as recommended for their favourite sport, for example squash or lacrosse.

Ask extended family members about their eye health

Eye diseases can be passed on from parents to their children. It is useful to know whether any member of your extended family may have a serious eye condition. Tell your child’s eyecare specialist about any vision problems you are aware of, especially if there is a history of childhood eye problems such as a squint or lazy eye.

Manage screen time for children

Extensive use of tablets and smartphones can cause dryness of the eyes, eye strain, blurry vision, focusing issues, and headaches. Children and young people may stare at screens intensively and not blink as much while using devices. This means that the tear film on the eye surface can dry out, leading to dryness. Also, n increasing number of children develop short-sightedness at a young age, and their prescription tends to increase year-on-year. This seems to be linked with children spending more time on near work, including tablets and smartphones.

Whilst there are no firm recommendations about limiting screen time, it is a good idea to ask your child to give their eyes a rest for 30 seconds after every 20-30 minutes of near work, including using screens. Giving the eyes a rest means to look in the far distance, or to go outdoors for a while.

Increase kids outdoor time to lower myopia risk

Studies in China suggest that the onset of short-sightedness in children can be delayed by spending more time outdoors, ideally 1-2 hours a day. According to Dr Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Private Eye Hospital in London, lack of natural light is one factor in myopia development. Many children have less opportunity to run around outside and are less exposed to sunshine, and because of that seem to have a higher risk of developing myopia.

Improve your children’s diet to support their eyesight

Dr Dahlmann-Noor says diet is also an area where parents can support their child’s eye health. Omega-3 essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, C and E and nutrients in foods like in oily fish, avocados and green leafy vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties and support the health of the tissues in the eyelids as well as the front and back of the eyes.

Consult experts in children’s eye care

At Moorfields Private, our paediatric ophthalmologists offer appointments for common eye problems affecting children, including myopia (short-sightedness), amblyopia (weaker vision in one eye; “lazy eye”), strabismus/squint (misalignment of the eyes), watery eye from birth (blocked tear duct), and eye surface inflammation (lid inflammation/blepharitis and allergic eye disease).

Learn more

Find out more about children’s eye conditions and treatments.

If you would like to know more about Moorfields Private Eye Hospital’s services or to book an appointment, please contact our New Patients Team:

Freephone: 0800 3283 421

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