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Strabismus and Amblyopia in Pediatrics

Strabismus refers to any misalignment of the eyes, and it is a common condition affecting 3-4% of the population. People often use other terms to refer to strabismus, such as crossed eyes, wandering eyes, or lazy eyes. While strabismus can start at any age, it most commonly affects children in the first few years of life. During this critical period for the development of sight, eye misalignment can lead to long-term visual dysfunction.

At Horizon Eye Care we strive to preserve and restore vision through a variety of strabismus treatments. These include glasses, prisms, eye exercises, and eye muscle surgery. It is never too late to straighten the eyes, but timely treatment of strabismus soon after its onset gives children the best chance for normal visual development. When surgery is necessary, it is performed as an outpatient procedure, and most children are back to their normal activities within a few days.

Amblyopia refers to reduced vision in an eye that is otherwise structurally normal. It typically results when the brain is exposed to blurry or misdirected images from one or both eyes during the critical period for visual development. Strabismus is one cause of amblyopia, but the most common cause is simply the need for glasses (refractive amblyopia).

Refractive amblyopia is so dangerous because there are usually no symptoms. It can only be detected when the vision is tested in each eye independently. Refractive amblyopia is common enough that pediatricians and school systems perform vision screening to discover it, but many children still slip through the cracks. An examination with a pediatric ophthalmologist prior to starting kindergarten can ensure that potential problems are detected early enough to allow treatment.

Most amblyopia can be cured if treatment is initiated at a young age. Beyond age seven, the treatments for amblyopia rapidly start to lose their effect.  Treatment may sometimes only require glasses. If glasses are insufficient, regular eye-patching or use of a blurring eye drop are both very effective. For strabismic amblyopia, the misalignment usually must be corrected.