Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not align. Also known as crossed eyes or being wall-eyed, it occurs when one eye turns in, out, up, or down while the other remains straight. That can happen all the time or only occasionally. Strabismus can affect people of any age but is most common in young children.
When you notice something different in your baby's eyes, it is natural to worry as a parent. One eye may wander while the other focuses on you. Alternatively, both eyes may appear crossed. That can be frightening, but it is best to remember that your little one's eye muscles are still developing and strengthening, and it is normal to see some variations in eye movements until a baby is 4-6 months old. This is because the visual system is not fully developed at birth, and depth perception-which is a function of both eyes working together properly- doesn’t develop until a child is about 6 months old.
If an eye turn is noticed in a child older than 6 months, they should be evaluated by a pediatric optometrist. Early detection of strabismus is important as early treatment provides the best outcomes, and can help prevent amblyopia- a reduction of vision in one eye. Strabismus is a developmental vision disorder, and can develop later in childhood as well. Near point stress- or all the time we spend on devices in our modern world, can lead to the development of strabismus in older children.
There are various forms of strabismus, each with a unique pattern of eye misalignment. The most typical kinds are:
Exotropia happens when one eye turns away from the nose and outward
When one eye turns inward toward the nose, it is esotropia. In kids, it is the most typical form of strabismus
Hypotropia is the downward rotation of one eye
Hypertropia is the upward rotation of one eye
Numerous conditions, such as issues with the eye muscles or nerves, problems with how the brain processes visual information, developmental disorders, or having a high prescription in one eye can result in strabismus. Strabismus can develop when something disrupts normal visual development, or in response to visual stress. Many developmental disorders – such as autism, Down’s syndrome, or cerebral palsy, have a higher incidence of strabismus than the general population. Head trauma- such as a concussion or stroke, can also cause strabismus to develop. The condition can also run in families.
The most visible symptom is a misalignment of the eyes, with one eye turning in, out, up, or down while the other remains straight. Other strabismus symptoms include:
Amblyopia (reduced vision in one eye)
Difficulty with depth perception
If your child has strabismus, it is crucial to take action to help them achieve the best vision possible. Treatment may include corrective glasses, prism, vision therapy, or surgery to realign the eyes. Keep an eye on how your child develops visual skills such as hand-eye coordination and tracking.
Vision therapy can re-program the brain’s control of eye movements and teach the eyes to work together and maintain alignment. Vision therapy is a non-invasive series of doctor supervised eye exercises that treat complex visual problems. Many cases of strabismus can be treated by vision therapy alone. In some cases where the eye turn is quite large, a combination of vision therapy and surgery could be considered.
If you think your child has an eye turn, have them evaluated by a pediatric optometrist. A routine eye exam can detect it. A developmental optometrist can design a vision therapy program to treat strabismus.
For more information on what to do if your child has crossed eyes, call Vision Rehabilitation Associates at our Northfield, Illinois office. Call (847) 716-2340 to schedule an appointment today.