Cross-eyed, or strabismus, is an eye condition in which the eyes are not aligned properly. Normally, the eyes function as a team, working together to maintain focus on a particular object of interest. In this condition however, the muscles that control eye movements are inadequately functioning. When problems develop with regulation of eye movements, the eyes may deviate from their “normal”, straight ahead position. Either of the two eyes may turn in, out, down, or up. The degree of the eye turn may vary throughout the day, and may be more noticeable during certain activities. For example, the eye turn may be more apparent when the individual is tired, ill, stressed, or if they have been reading or working on the computer for a long period of time. In some cases, it may be the same eye that continues to turn, while in other cases, the eye that is turned may switch between the two eyes.
The ability to maintain proper alignment is essential in the development of the visual processing pathway. Accurate positioning of the eyes prevents poor vision from developing in the turned eye (Amblyopia- see below), avoids double vision from occurring, and strengthens depth perception skills.
The term, “lazy eye”, refers to the condition of Amblyopia, and is the loss or lack of development of vision, that usually takes place in just one eye. A lazy eye is often times associated with crossed-eyes (Strabismus –see above), or may occur in individuals with a large difference in the degree of farsightedness or nearsightedness between the two eyes. This degenerative process usually begins during infancy or early childhood. As a parent, you may not easily notice that your child has a lazy eye, as they may be functioning normally for their age since they have good vision in the one eye. Common symptoms that indicate a lazy eye exists, are if your child tends to favor one eye over the other, or if they continually bump into objects on one side.
In both conditions, strabismus and amblyopia, early diagnosis and therapeutic intervention is key in the overall prognosis for visual recovery. This is actually one of the reasons why the American Optometric Association recommends eye examinations on children when they are 6 months old, later on at 3 years of age, and again before entering the first grade. There is a misconception that a child can “outgrow” their eye turn or that a lazy eye can improve on its own. The only way to improve either of the conditions is from treatment with eyeglasses or contact lenses, specialty prism, vision therapy, or in the case of an eye turn, eye muscle surgery.
If you suspect a problem with your child, or have not scheduled an appointment for their first eye examination, call one of our offices today.