If you have a baby or small child, then you should watch out for the signs of an eye disorder called strabismus as their vision and eyes develop. This eye condition affects about 4% of Americans and it affects children much more often than adults. Strabismus should be treated soon after it develops because when treated early, the condition can often be corrected before it leads to additional vision problems.
Read on to learn more about strabismus in children, including signs to look for in your child, the hazards of leaving it untreated, and treatment options.
Most children who develop strabismus show the signs of this condition before the age of 3, although it can develop in older children. While strabismus is often casually referred to as crossed eyes, the condition does not always cause both eyes to turn inward, as you may expect. Instead, a child with strabismus may have just one eye that points inward or outward (horizontal strabismus) or even an eye that points up or down (vertical strabismus).
In addition, strabismus can be present at all times in the form of constant strabismus or only occur sometimes in the form of intermittent strabismus. While many cases of strabismus affect one or both eyes all the time, in alternating strabismus, the affected eye can change frequently.
Hazards of Untreated Strabismus
Leaving strabismus untreated can lead to long-lasting vision and eye problems. First, realize that strabismus rarely goes away on its own, so treatment is always advised to correct this disorder. Strabismus in children can also cause double vision, bad depth perception, and headaches, and general blurry vision that can lead to clumsiness that causes accidents and difficulty learning in the classroom. Over time, untreated strabismus can also cause amblyopia, or lazy eye, in the eye that turns inward or outward, which can be difficult to treat or even permanent.
Strabismus Treatment Options
Thankfully, many strabismus treatment options can improve eye alignment and help eyes begin to work as a team to focus on objects better. If a child is old enough to perform special eye exercises designed to help correct strabismus, then their eye doctor may recommend this treatment called orthoptics or vision therapy. However, some children's strabismus responds better to special eyeglasses called prism lenses.
When a child's strabismus does not respond to non-invasive correction treatments, then strabismus surgery may be recommended. During eye muscle surgery to correct strabismus, certain eye muscles that are pulling on the misaligned eye are shortened and/or repositioned to stop this pulling and encourage the eye to rest in a proper position.
If you have a young child, then you should keep an eye out for the signs of strabismus as their eyes develop, and contact your doctor if you suspect they are developing this eye disorder. Early strabismus treatment can help prevent the problems that this eye condition can cause.