Diagnosing lazy eye 

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

However, it can be difficult to know whether a child has a lazy eye because they often do not realise that there is anything wrong with their vision. A lazy eye therefore may not be diagnosed until your child has their first eye test.

If an eye specialist (optometrist) suspects a lazy eye, they will also test for other conditions, such as:

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 first be examined within 72 hours of birth. This simple examination is used to check for obvious physical defects.

They will have a second eye examination when they are between six and eight weeks old, which will usually be carried out by your GP.

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

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

  • 6 weeks old – follows a colourful 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

Your child's vision may also be tested before they start school, but this varies depending on where you live.

There are a number of tests that may be carried out to check for vision problems in babies and children.

Read more about eye tests for children.

Page last reviewed: 17/04/2014

Next review due: 17/04/2016