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Crossed Eyes (Strabismus) & Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

Strabismus and amblyopia are not diseases but visual conditions that affect the function of a person's visual system (which is composed of the eyes, the brain, and the connections between the two).


In strabismus, commonly known as crossed eyes, a person's eyes are not in alignment. The symptoms of strabismus (such as eye turn) may always be present, or they may appear only when a person is tired, ill or concentrating intensely on objects.


If the brain suppresses the signals from one eye long enough, a condition called amblyopia results. Amblyopia is called lazy eye because one eye stops functioning properly. The eye-brain connection in the non-functioning eye is very poor and the brain ignores or surpresses most of its signals in order to make sense of what is seen.

How are Strabismus and Amblyopia Detected?

At birth, a baby's eyes are not well-coordinated and may wander. Within a few weeks, however, an infant usually learns to move both eyes together and the wandering should disappear. If a child's eyes continue to drift, this can indicate a visual problem, such as strabismus or amblyopia. Parents who notice an unusual eye turn in a child should contact an optometrist.

Can Strabismus and Amblyopia be Treated?

Both can be treated, depending on the severity of the problem. The eyes need to be retrained to gain greater coordination and taught to work as a team.

When detected, the training or "retraining" process (vision therapy) can begin at any age, even in infancy, by using systematic visual activities under the supervision of a behavioral optometrist. A behavioral optometrist might use lenses and prisms along with vision therapy activities to change visual habits. At times, patching one eye may be necessary in people with amblyopia.

The treatments for amblyopia and strabismus are similar and may be very complex and require a considerable amount of family and doctor participation. Amblyopia and strabismus are best corrected by beginning treatment as soon as possible.

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