Strabismus: Watch Out for the Signs in Your Child

“Squint” or “cross-eyes” are common names used for Strabismus. It is characterized by uncoordinated eye muscles that cause misalignment and hinder the eyes from looking at similar points in space. Eyes of a person with strabismus cannot focus on the same target. He would appear like his eyes are looking at two different objects. Sometimes, strabismus involves one or both eyes turning out, up or down.

Causes and Symptoms
Causes of this eye abnormality include heredity, birth injuries, faulty attachment of eye muscles, and local eye diseases. Strabismus usually shows up in early childhood. Thus, by closely observing your child, you can seek prompt treatment and prevent more serious complications.

Early intervention for strabismus is critical as it can lead into amblyopia or “lazy eye”. Normally, light waves are received by both eyes. These are converted into signals which are transmitted to the brain. The brain then fuses these signals and the person perceives a single image. If your child has strabismus however, the eyes do not work together. They send an image to a different area of the brain sending a double vision. This confuses the brain so it compensates by ignoring the blurrier image sent by the other eye. The eye neglected by the brain becomes weaker and your child eventually stops using that eye thus greatly reducing his sight. In addition, he will be unable to fully perceive depth. Growing up, your child is also more likely to suffer psychological effects such as low self-esteem and social ineptness due to his physical appearance.

Early Detection
As mentioned, you can prevent all these by vigilantly monitoring your child of the manifestations of strabismus. This eye disorder is often evident at age six months. At about four to six months old, your baby’s eyes should be parallel and able to focus on small objects. If your child doesn’t demonstrate this, consult an ophthalmologist.

Some cases of strabismus show up during the preschool years so you should continue being alert till this period. Although this condition varies every day, it frequently manifests when your child is tired, sick or emotionally upset. The signs you should watch out for include wandering of both eyes inward, down ward, or upward as well as a tendency to close one eye when exposed in sunlight.

Treatments of strabismus include eye glasses, eye patch, eye drops, exercises and medications. If these are ineffective, surgery may be performed to straighten your child’s eye muscles especially if he’s less than a year old although surgical remedies are also done on older children and adults.

If amblyopia has already developed, an eye patch for a few weeks or a year is often recommended. This treatment works best if the child is less than three years of age.

Doctors say that no child is too young to be examined for strabismus. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, a child with squint can achieve relatively normal sight and appearance.

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