Eyesight by age 3 min read

How to tell if your child has a sight problem

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Problems with your sight can occur at any time so as a parent it’s important that you’re aware of any changes or issues with your child’s vision. With that in mind, we take a look at why eye tests are important for children, some of the key signs to look out for and common eye conditions.

Importance of eye examinations for children

Routine eye checks are often offered soon after your child has been born so that any issues can be picked up and managed straight away.

Eye problems are much easier to treat while a child’s vision is still developing. Children themselves may not recognise when they have an issue with their sight. It’s important that as a parent, you’re able to recognise when something isn’t quite right.

Your child’s eyes can be checked at multiple stages as they grow up. Eye tests may be suggested within 72 hours of birth, between 6-8 weeks, between 1-2 years and between 4-5 years.

Young children can have eye examinations even if they cannot talk

Signs for parents to look out for

Sometimes you are able to tell if your child is suffering from poor vision through a number of behavioural signs.

If your child often complains of headaches or their eyes feel strained, they may be overexerting their eyes in an effort to see clearly. Similarly, if they often rub their eyes, this could also be due to eye fatigue. Itchy eyes could also be a sign of allergic conjunctivitis.

If you notice your child sits in front of the TV more closely than normal, they could have trouble seeing clearly. This could be a sign of myopia, or near-sightedness. Alternatively, if they hold a book closer than normal it could be a sign of hypermetropia, or far-sightedness.

Sitting too close to a screen can be a sign of long-sightedness

Another sign could be an unusually clumsy child, or one that has particular problems with hand-eye co-ordination. This can sometimes be due to poor vision.

Eye conditions and children

Many eye conditions are common and are easily treatable, but it helps if you’re able to identify them early. Many of these conditions can be picked up with a routine eye examination.


If your child has redness around the eyes, streaming tears, swollen eyelids, or wakes up with a yellow crust on their eyelashes, it could be conjunctivitis.

Amblyopia ("Lazy-eye")

You may notice that your child has a lazy eye. This is a childhood condition where vision may not develop properly and usually happens in one eye. It is also known as amblyopia and happens because one or both eyes are unable to build a strong link to the brain. Around 1 in 50 children will develop a lazy eye.


Another eye condition that you can look out for is strabismus or a squint. You may also know it as cross-eyed. This is when the eyes point in different ways, which can make it difficult for both eyes to focus on the same thing. Around 5% of children will have some degree of strabismus and treatment is usually very successful. Look out for crossed eyes, or if your child complains of double vision. If left untreated, strabismus can lead to a lazy eye.

Child with strabismus with a corrective eye patch

Short-sightedness (Myopia)

If your child is struggling to see the board at school or sits very close to the television, then it is likely that they are finding it difficult to focus on objects at a distance.

Long-sightedness (Hypermetropia)

Your child will struggle to focus on objects that are close up. Your child will probably complain of headaches and eye fatigue as they strain to see.


Astigmatism is a minor eye condition that can be present from birth. It’s usually grouped with near-sightedness and far-sightedness under the umbrella term of refractive errors. Symptoms can include blurred vision and can lead to headaches and eye strain.

If you think something has changed in your child’s vision, take them for an eye examination at your local optician.

Essilor's guide to children's glasses

From spotting the first signs of an eye condition, to what causes them, all the way through correcting and managing them.


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