Checking for the red reflex

The red reflex test is a non-invasive test that can show early warning signs of serious eye conditions in children. Your GP or optician will usually perform a red reflex test during your child's routine appointments using an ophthalmoscope (a magnifying instrument with a light at one end).

There are also some things you can look out for at home. When using a camera flash, a red reflex is usually produced in the eye as it lights up the blood-rich retina. If the eyes are looking directly at the camera lens and the colour of the reflex in both eyes is red, in most cases that's a good indication that the retinas of both eyes are healthy.

An "abnormal red reflex" is a white, yellow or black reflection in one or both eyes. This can be a warning sign for the presence of a serious eye condition.  

Other important signs to look out for are:

  • a squint
  • a change in the colour of the iris – in one eye or sometimes only in one area of the eye 
  • a red or inflamed eye – though your child won't usually complain of any pain
  • poor vision – your child may not focus on faces or objects, or they may not be able to control their eye movements

If you notice any of these signs you should get your child checked by a GP as soon as possible. 

Other useful contacts

We run a special children's A&E for eye conditions which is based in the Richard Desmond Children's Eye Centre. Our children's A&E provides treatment for urgent, sight-threatening problems and for issues that cannot wait for a routine appointment with your GP. It is open during the day, Monday to Friday. In the evening, overnight or at weekends, children can be treated for eye emergencies in our main A&E department based in Moorfields Eye Hospital in City Road. The main A&E is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

You can also get information and advice on eye conditions and treatments from our telephone helpline Moorfields Direct on 020 7566 2345. The helpline is staffed by experienced ophthalmic-trained nurses and is open from 9am to 9pm, Monday to Friday and from 9am to 5pm on Saturdays. At busy times, we might not be able to answer your call straight away - please bear with us and call back a little later if this happens.




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