Childhood is by far the most important time in shaping a person's future. Like other physical developments during this period, eye and vision developments will affect them for their entire lives. It is very important for parents to be aware and keep watch for signs that may indicate problems with their child's vision. Below we discuss a condition among children called Strabismus, which is quite common among children, as well as some common conditions resulting from Strabismus.
Strabismus and its most closely related “brother” condition, Amblyopia share many of the same symptoms, the most obvious being eyes which do not both face the same way, or do not move together. A child may also tilt his head or squint in order to compensate for poor sight in the weaker eye, and may also eventually exhibit loss of depth perception.
Strabismus is a condition in which your child's eyes are not aligned. This happens when muscles that control eye movements are either misaligned or underdeveloped. This is a common occurrence in children who suffer from additional conditions that impact their development, such as cerebral palsy, downs syndrome, prematurity or brain tumors.
Children often develop amblyopia as a result of untreated strabismus. Amblyopia, sometimes known as lazy eye, is a condition involving very poor eyesight in one eye as a result of poor development. Normally, two healthy eyes see only a slightly different image of what is being viewed and each eye sends its individual view to the brain. Because the images are basically similar, with only slight variation because of perspective, the brain is able to combine these two views into a single interpreted image. This process is called binocular fusion. With strabismus, the images from the misaligned eyes are entirely different. This causes binocular fusion to be extremely difficult or even impossible. If left untreated, your child's brain learns to deal with the confusion of different images by choosing to entirely ignore images coming from one of the eyes, making this eye either very weak or functionally blind. This eye becomes the one referred to as the “lazy” eye.
Convergence and Accommodative Insufficiency are another two related conditions. Dr. Patti Ellison of Pierce Family Vision in Waterloo, ON explains, “Sometimes the eyes are unable to properly turn inward enough to converge successfully on a single point when looking close up. This difficulty is called convergence insufficiency, and is often due to complications related to strabismus. Other times, the eyes are unable to hold sufficient focus on objects in close vision. This is referred to as accomodative insufficiency, and is not a defect in the eye itself, but rather a problem with maintaining accurate, comfortable focus on objects close up. Convergence and Accommodative Insufficiency are often connected.”
Symptoms for Convergence and Accommodative Insufficiency include headaches, difficulty reading, and poor concentration.
Vision Therapy has recently proven to be quite effective in fighting, and in some cases even reversing some of these conditions. Vision Therapy refers to a non-surgical program involving vision exercises performed under your eye doctor's supervision, and customized to your particular needs. Sometimes, this kind of therapy may help patients develop fundamental visual skills and abilities, improve visual comfort, ease, and efficiency, and even change how a patient processes or interprets visual information.
If your child displays any of symptoms discussed here, schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists immediately to receive a thorough check-up and begin treatment, including Vision Therapy, as soon as possible.