boy on white background

If the child above has a lazy eye, which one is it?

One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked as optometrists is when should I get my child’s eyes tested?  The answer to this question is simple, your child’s eyes should be definitely comprehensively examined before they start school, ideally at around four years of age, or earlier than four years of age if parents feel there is something wrong.  One of the major reasons, if not the major reason for testing children so young is to detect and treat a lazy eye or more correctly an amblyopic eye.

Recent studies estimate that the level of amblyopia in the population may be anywhere from 1-4%.  Now whilst these levels may sound low I personally feel they could be kept so much lower if proper screenings are done and treatment commenced early.  Amblyopia or a lazy eye may arise because an eye has not received proper visual stimulation during the critical phase of visual maturity which occurs up until a child reaches eight years of age.  If an eye has an opacity in it, or is turned or requires vision correction (glasses or contact lenses) then essentially the brain tends to forget about it and will reduce or suppress the images that it is receiving from the effected eye. Sometimes when there is a problem it is obvious to both the parents and the treating practitioner, for example when an eye is constantly turned however a child whose eyes look exactly the same may still have a problem.  That problem may well be that one eye has a need for glasses or contact lens correction but the other eye does not and since we very rarely walk around covering one eye it may very well go undetected as the child will still see everything clearly because they are only using their good eye.  A simple eye examination where each eye’s vision is checked is the first step in detecting such a problem yet so many people in the population both children and adults have not had this done.

Some initiatives such as the Queensland Health, child health checks, are helping to pick up on these problems by ensuring that children’s vision is checked and / or discussed when children present for their child health checks and immunisation schedules.  Whilst I would argue that a quick check of each eye’s vision on a letter or shape chart never replaces a full comprehensive eye examination with an optometrist or ophthalmologist it is a positive step in the right direction towards eliminating vision issues that can be easily detected.

If you have any questions regarding the above information then please do not hesitate to email or contact the practice and we will gladly discuss.