Child Strabismus

Children who have a vision problem known as strabismus are unable to focus both eyes on the same thing at the same time. Instead, one eye may look in one direction, while the other eye looks elsewhere.

Strabismus happens when the eye muscles - which normally work together to move the eyes in the same direction - do not work correctly. As a result, the eyes look in different directions, and the brain struggles to understand what the eyes are seeing.

Symptoms of Strabismus

When babies are born, their eyes may not be aligned right away. It may take four to six months for their eyes to work together. But after that time, the eyes should align. Contact your child's personal primary care physician if you think his/her eyes are not straight and working in tandem by the age of 4-6 months.

Children who have strabismus may have symptoms all of the time or just sometimes, particularly when they are tired. A child with strabismus may:

  • Have eyes that don’t look in the same direction at the same time.
  • Have eyes that don’t move together at the same time.
  • Have one or both eyes that may wander in, out, up or down.
  • Squint or close one eye in bright sunlight.
  • Turn their head to look at something.

If you notice any of these symptoms, talk to your pediatrician, who may then refer you to a Mercy Kids ophthalmologist. Unless strabismus is treated early on, it can lead to permanent vision problems:

  • If a child depends more on one eye, the other eye may weaken, which can lead to amblyopia, or lazy eye.
  • Depth perception may be affected.
  • Eventually, the brain may process images from only one eye, leading to vision loss in the other eye.

In addition, strabismus can affect a child’s appearance and self-esteem.

Treating Your Child's Strabismus

Our pediatric ophthalmologists treat many children with strabismus. We offer several treatments to successfully strengthen their eye muscles, realign their eyes and correct their vision.

Your child’s treatment will depend on how serious the strabismus is. The most common treatments include:

  • Glasses: Mild strabismus may be corrected by wearing glasses.
  • Eye patch: Children with amblyopia may need to wear a patch over the stronger eye all or some of the time for several weeks to a few months. This forces the weaker eye to work harder and become stronger.
  • Medication: If wearing an eye patch is not practical, atropine drops may be used in the stronger eye to blur visions and force the weaker eye to do the job of seeing.
  • Surgery: Should other treatments be unsuccessful, we may recommend surgery to repair the eye muscles. Most kids will not have to stay in the hospital overnight following this surgery.

Any time you have concerns about your child’s vision, talk to your pediatrician. Our goal is to ensure your child can clearly see the world and all its possibilities.

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