A lazy eye (amblyopia) ideally needs to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible, preferably before a child is five years of age.

However, it can often be difficult to know whether a child has a lazy eye as they might not realise anything is wrong with their vision.

This means a lazy eye may not be diagnosed until a child has their first eye test.

If an optometrist (a healthcare professional specialising in eyes) suspects a lazy eye, they'll also test for other conditions, such as long-sightedness (hyperopia) and a squint.

Visit your GP or tell your health visitor if you have any concerns about your child's eyesight at any stage.

Routine eye tests

Your baby's eyes will be examined within 72 hours of birth. This simple examination is used to check for obvious physical defects.

Your baby will have a second eye examination when they're between six and eight weeks old.

A child's vision should develop in the following way over the first year of life:

  • 6 weeks old – follows a bright or interesting object, such as a face, with their eyes
  • 2-3 months old – starts to reach for things they see
  • 3-5 months old – starts to mimic facial expressions and look at objects more closely
  • 6-12 months old – focuses on objects that are both near and far away, sees simple shapes, scribbles with a crayon, and is interested in pictures

Shortly before or after having a baby, all new parents are given a Personal Child Health Record (PCHR), which highlights developmental milestones for vision.

When your child is around one or two years old, you may be asked whether you have any concerns about their eyesight during a review of their health and development. 

If necessary, specific eye tests that check for vision problems can be arranged.

Your child's vision may also be tested before they start school when they're around four or five years old, but this varies depending on where you live.

Read more about routine eye tests for children.

Page last reviewed: 16/06/2016

Next review due: 16/06/2018