Newborns sometimes look cross-eyed, which can understandably worry parents. However, it’s normal for a baby’s eyes to wander during the first few months of life because their eyes and eye muscles are still developing. By the time your baby is 4–6 months old, their eyes should be stronger and straighten out.
However, if one or both of your baby’s eyes continue to wander, either in, out, up, or down—even occasionally—it may be more than just a wandering eye and could be strabismus, a condition often known as crossed eyes.
Various factors, like genetics, an imbalance in eye muscles, or limited visual stimulation, can contribute to strabismus. Talk to your optometrist for professional guidance if you’re concerned about your baby’s eye alignment. Eye exams for children are the best way to detect strabismus.
Children’s Developing Eyes
Children greatly rely on their eyes to learn and grow. Early visual experiences play a fundamental role in shaping a child’s understanding of the world. As they explore their surroundings, their eyes are the primary gateway to absorbing information and gaining valuable insights. Their visual development isn’t only about seeing clearly but also about developing visual skills and perceiving the world in a way that fosters learning.
During the first few months of life, infants may experience occasional crossed eyes because their visual system is still maturing. But children’s eyes grow rapidly, and while every child is different, they tend to follow the same vision development milestones:
- Newborns have blurry vision and can only focus on objects close to them.
- By 3 months, their vision starts improving, and they can track moving objects with their eyes.
- At around 6 months, their depth perception begins to develop so they can judge distances more accurately.
- By 1 year old, most children have 20/20 vision and can see colours vividly.
- Between 2 and 3 years, their eye-hand coordination improves, so they can draw and do activities requiring fine motor skills.
- By 4 to 5 years, their visual acuity is almost fully developed, and they can recognize letters, shapes, and numbers more easily.
When your child enters school, their eyes will be taxed more and more every year. School can put strain on their eyes due to screen time, reading demands, homework, and studying.
Regular eye exams are vital to supporting your child’s visual development. The Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) recommends that infants between 6 and 9 months should have their first eye examination, and the Ontario Association of Optometrists (OAO) recommends annual eye exams after that. OHIP covers annual eye exams for children newborns to 19, making it easier for Ontario residents to take care of their little one’s visual health.
What Is Strabismus?
Strabismus, also known as crossed eyes, develops during childhood. It can have lasting implications if not addressed early. Strabismus occurs when the eyes don’t align properly, leading to one or both eyes pointing in different directions. This misalignment can cause issues with binocular vision, depth perception, and other visual skills.
Early intervention is critical because untreated strabismus can have long-term consequences, affecting a child’s ability to develop normal vision and depth perception. Children with strabismus may initially experience double vision because their eyes don’t focus on the same object. Eventually, the brain will start ignoring images sent from one eye. Over time, the neglected eye can become less functional and unused, potentially leading to lazy eye, also known as amblyopia.
Children don’t outgrow strabismus; a child with strabismus becomes an adult with strabismus.
Even if your child can’t read yet, eye exams are essential for determining if their eyes are healthy and developing correctly.
Strabismus can often be diagnosed by a simple visual exam performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The eye doctor will assess your child’s eye alignment and movement during this examination. They may use various tools, such as light or special lenses, to aid in their diagnosis.
In some cases, further testing may be needed to determine the severity of the strabismus and its underlying cause. These tests may include a comprehensive eye exam, imaging tests, and measuring the child’s visual acuity.
It is crucial to note that even if a child does not exhibit any signs or symptoms of strabismus, regular eye exams are still essential. Subtle changes in eye alignment and function can be detected early, allowing for timely intervention and preventing potential long-term consequences.
From Children to Adults: Managing Strabismus
If strabismus persists into adulthood, it can present a whole new set of challenges.
Adults with strabismus can experience difficulties with eye alignment and develop double vision, blurry vision, trouble reading, or loss of depth perception. But, adults can still benefit from interventions to manage their condition and enhance their quality of life. Consulting with an optometrist is essential for addressing adult strabismus and finding the best path forward.
How Is Strabismus Treated?
There are several approaches for treating or managing strabismus:
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses: In some cases, wearing corrective lenses can help improve eye alignment.
- Patching: Covering the stronger eye with an eye patch to encourage the weaker eye to develop better vision (commonly used for lazy eye).
- Botox injections: In certain situations, injecting Botox into specific eye muscles can temporarily correct the misalignment.
- Surgery: In more severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to adjust the position of the eye muscles and improve alignment.
Vision therapy can also be an effective, noninvasive method for improving strabismus. It consists of a structured, personalized program of exercises and activities designed to improve communication between the eyes and brain. At Dr. Zargar Eye Care, we offer vision therapy services to tackle various vision problems, including strabismus.
Vision therapy can work wonders as a treatment approach for strabismus, helping patients improve eye movement control, alignment, focus, and other visual skills. It often works hand in hand with other methods to achieve better results.
Explore Your Treatment Options
If you think your child might have strabismus, getting professional advice is vital. Getting a diagnosis and treatment early can improve the chances of successful treatment. Dr. Zargar Eye Care is here to help and give you guidance for strabismus and other vision-related concerns.To explore treatment options and get the care your child needs, we encourage you to contact us today. Their vision is important, and we’re dedicated to helping improve their eye health and quality of life.