Strabismus is an eye condition in which the muscles that control both eyes don't work together like they should. Every case of strabismus is different, but in most cases, a person has one eye that looks off to the side, up, or down while the other eye is oriented in a different direction. Being cross-eyed is a type of strabismus.
Most cases of strabismus are congenital, which means that the individual is born with the condition, although it does not always become obvious until a baby is a few months old. If you suspect your child may have strabismus, here's what you need to know:
The earlier the condition is corrected with surgery, the better the results.
Many cases of strabismus are correctable with surgery. An eye surgeon can modify the muscles and nerves in one or both eyes to encourage them to focus properly. In many cases, more than one surgical procedure is required for adequate correction. Treating the condition early increases the likelihood of a good outcome, so don't hesitate to contact your pediatrician or a pediatric eye doctor at the first suspicion that your child has strabismus.
Surgery may not be needed for mild cases.
If your child's case is minor, it may be correctable with vision therapy. An eye doctor may have you cover one of your child's eyes so that the other one is focused to adapt and strengthen, or special glasses and exercises may be used under the guidance of a vision therapist.
Strabismus can have health consequences if left untreated.
The purpose of treating strabismus is not only to make your child look "normal," but also to help avoid future medical problems that can arise because of the disorder. People with untreated strabismus often experience headaches, feel dizzy or unsteady when reading, and have a harder time learning in school due to an inability to see the chalkboard and their papers properly.
Children with strabismus are at an increased risk of several other disorders.
Recent studies have found that children with strabismus are more likely to develop ADHD and learning disabilities than children without this condition. Keep in mind that this by no means indicates that your child will or does have these other conditions. It's simply important to be on the lookout for signs of these other conditions, so that they can be treated properly if they do appear.
If your child's eyes don't appear to be moving in the same direction at the same time, contact an eye surgeon like Todd S. Kirk, MD promptly. This is not a problem that goes away on its own. By acting quickly, you can ensure your child does not suffer any more than is necessary.
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