As an orthoptist, I am a specialist in testing the vision of very young children and babies, providing a lead role in the primary screening of children aged 4-5yrs, and in the identification, measurement and treatment of squint (“wandering eye”) and amblyopia (“lazy eye”). There are orthoptic clinics throughout the county, at West Cornwall Hospital (Penzance), Camborne/Redruth, Helston, Falmouth, Newquay, Bodmin and St Austell hospitals. We also have two dedicated school vision screening technicians who visit all primary schools in the county during the Reception year to test vision and refer to the hospital orthoptist if necessary.
If you notice that your baby has an intermittent squint or wandering eye, this may in fact be quite normal, as long as he/she is under 3 months of age! Very young babies do take time to develop proper co-ordination of their eye movement muscles and focus, so their eyes may appear to be quite out of alignment occasionally, however a constant squint at any age requires further assessment, as does an intermittent squint in an older baby or child.
Other signs that there may be an eye problem are “wobbly” eyes (nystagmus), difficulties with hand-eye co-ordination, or apparent inability to see correctly such as holding books close to the face.
Treatment of visual difficulties includes glasses wear: prescription of glasses is done after testing with our specialist paediatric optician. Glasses are sometimes given to small babies and very young children, and it is quite surprising how well even the smallest child will wear their glasses once they appreciate the benefit to their vision!
In the case of amblyopia (“lazy eye”), we also often recommend and supervise occlusion therapy, where a child wears a “patch” over the “good” eye to encourage the “lazy eye” to work and improve vision.
If you are concerned about your child/baby’s eyes, your health visitor or family doctor can arrange referral to the orthoptist.
Allison Osborne, Senior Orthoptist with the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, based at the Eye Unit at Trelikse Hospital, Truro.