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.
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.