Strabismus in Kids: What You Need To Know

Strabismus in Kids: What You Need To Know

Commonly known as crossed eyes, a lazy eye, turned eye or squint, strabismus is when the eyes are not aligned in the same direction, and it appears that one eye is looking another way. It can appear sporadically or all of the time. The condition appears in about five in every 100 children, making it quite common. It may affect vision as the brain ignores images from one eye. The condition may also affect hand-eye coordination and the perception of depth and distance.

The eye may turn inward and look towards the nose, which is called esotropia or convergent squint, or it may turn outward towards the ear, which is called exotropia or divergent squint. The eye may sometimes appear to look up (hypertropia) or down (hypotropia). Strabismus is common during early childhood, and is sometimes (although rarely) present from birth.

If you think your child may have strabismus, you can book an appointment for an assessment at Valley Eye Specialists in Brisbane. To learn a little more about the condition, read on and discover how it is caused, how vision may be affected and how the condition can be treated.

How does strabismus occur?

Strabismus, characterised by a failure of the eyes to maintain alignment, can actually have a variety of causes. An assessment can help to find the cause and determine the most suitable treatment.

The contraction and relaxation of the six muscles attached to the white outer layer of the eye controls how the eyes move. When these muscles are affected, (particularly if how the muscles work together are each different), it can cause the condition.

This may be caused by a failure of the visual area of the brain responsible for eye alignment, focus issues within the eyes (particularly long-sighted vision), or a condition that directly affects the eye muscles (however, this is less common). Sometimes, the condition can be caused by head injuries, or experienced after illnesses that have weakened the eye muscles.

While strabismus itself cannot be prevented, it can be treated before the condition causes further issues in the future.

Does strabismus affect vision?

If the eyes are not aligned and looking in the same direction, it means that each eye will be sending a different image to the brain. Sometimes, the brain naturally ignores some of the image from one eye, but this can make the other eye become dominant over time.

Once one eye becomes dominant, the turned eye (or lazy eye) can experience a decrease in vision. This is then a condition called amblyopia, which can occur as a result of the eyes failing to work together, and the brain struggling to recognise vision from one eye.

You may notice that your child struggles with hand-eye coordination, which can sometimes become more noticeable during sports. This may be caused by strabismus, if it has affected your child’s depth perception (the ability to judge distance or depth).

Since the treatment may affect vision or possibly have long-term impacts on vision, treatment may be highly recommended. Different treatment methods can be used, or sometimes a combination of methods may be suitable.

How to spot strabismus in kids

If your child has strabismus, you might notice that they often close one eye, have eyes that appear misaligned or may be frequently tilting their head. Since the condition can affect hand-eye coordination, you may also notice clumsiness or difficultly playing certain sports (such as tennis or football).

Sometimes, the symptoms of the condition may not be too noticeable, only appearing when your child is tired, unwell or only looking in a certain direction. The symptoms can sometimes go unnoticed and only become noticeable once your child tells you that they are experiencing blurry or double vision.

It’s common for babies’ eyes to appear misaligned until they are about four months old. However, if the eyes still appear misaligned in the longer term, it can be a sign of strabismus or other conditions. Symptoms of other health or eye conditions can sometimes be mistaken for strabismus, so it’s important to have an eye assessment as early as possible.

How strabismus can be treated

To treat strabismus, the alignment of the eyes will need to be improved to support better vision. An assessment to determine the cause of the condition will help to find the right treatment going forward.

Treatment can include wearing glasses full-time, wearing an eye patch for some of the time, or undergoing surgery. Surgical treatment can include using methods to straighten the eyes or surgery to treat the condition that may be causing the eye to turn (such as cataracts).

An ophthalmologist may recommend multiple methods of treatment, but it will entirely depend on your personal circumstances. The first step in treating strabismus in kids is to book an eye assessment with an eye specialist.

Valley Eye Specialists in Brisbane

To correctly diagnose the condition, an eye assessment can be performed to assess how well the eyes are working together.

An eye specialist may use a variety of tests, such as a prolonged eyepatch test, but diagnosing strabismus in kids will always require a full examination of the internal eye.

At Valley Eye, we work with the Queensland Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Surgeons (QPOSS), who are experienced and trained in the diagnosis and treatment of strabismus in children.

Contact our team to book an eye assessment or to ask us any further questions you may have about the condition!