Obtaining a good eye exam on a child can be challenging. Extra patience and experience are often required to be able to determine how well a child is seeing and what, if any, treatment is needed. Because the first few years of life are critical to visual development, it is very important that childhood eye problems be diagnosed and treated correctly and in a timely manner. If not treated early enough, some of these problems can result in permanently reduced vision.
One of the most common childhood eye problems is amblyopia. It is estimated that 2-4% of the population has or has had amblyopia. This means that there is 1 child in almost every school classroom who has amblyopia. Amblyopia is a condition where the vision in one eye has not developed well due to that eye having an excessive degree of far-sightedness or astigmatism. Amblyopia can also be caused by misaligned eyes (strabismus) and other eye problems. The critical issue is that amblyopia can only be treated in childhood. If not treated when a person is young, the vision loss becomes permanent and cannot be improved when the person is older.
Meet Our Pediatrics/Strabismus Specialist:
The term “lazy eye” is sometimes used in place of amblyopia. “Lazy eye” is also used though to describe an eye that drifts out (a type of strabismus) or an eye with a drooping upper eyelid. Because lazy eye has so many potential meanings, the medical term amblyopia is preferred to describe an eye with poor vision due to problems with visual development.
Strabismus is any misalignment of the eyes. Eye crossing, an eye that drifts out, or having one eye higher than the other are all forms of strabismus. Strabismus can occur at birth, early childhood, or as an adult and has many different causes. Treatment of strabismus can include glasses, eye exercises, and surgery. Strabismus in children can be a sign of other serious underlying eye disorders and should be evaluated without delay by an eye doctor experienced in childhood eye problems.
Strabismus in adults can cause double vision and other problems. It can be a sign of a more serious underlying condition or can be something that has been present since childhood. It is important to know that there are almost always treatment options available to adults with strabismus.