Childhood Eye Disorders
Common Eye Disorders for Children
Amblyopia, also know as “lazy eye” is reduced vision in an eye that has not received adequate use during early childhood. It is estimated that 4% of children suffer from this form of visual impairment. If not treated early enough, an amblyopic eye may never develop good vision and may even become functionally blind. Amblyopia has many causes. Most often, amblyopia results from either a misalignment of a child’s eyes, such as crossed eyes, or a difference in image quality between the two eyes, meaning one eye focuses better than the other. With early diagnosis and treatment, the sight in the “lazy eye” can be restored. Glasses are commonly prescribed to improve focusing or misalignment of the eyes. Patching or covering the better-seeing eye may be required for a period of time. This forces the “lazy” eye to work harder, thereby strengthening its vision. Medication may also be used to blur the vision of the good eye in order to force the weaker one to work. Surgery may be performed on the eye muscles to straighten the eyes if nonsurgical means are unsuccessful. Eye exercises may be recommended before or after surgery as well.
Strabismus, commonly known as crossed eye, is a misalignment of the eye due to muscle imbalance. This misalignment substantially reduces depth perception. Strabismus occurs in approximately 4% of children and young adults. Strabismus has an inherited pattern and is much more common in children who have one or more parents that were affected. Treatment of strabismus may include patching of one eye or corrective lenses. However, the majority of children with strabismus will eventually require surgery to better align the eyes. Strabismus surgery commonly entails recession or resection of eye muscles to different sections of the eye to either weaken or strengthen them depending on the case. Strabismus surgery is generally successful in realigning the eyes as close to normal as possible.
Congenital Ptosis refers to a drooping of the eyelids that is present at birth. The drooping is due to improper development of the levator muscle, a major muscle responsible for elevating the upper eyelid. The lid may partially or fully cover the eye, and it may occur in one or both eyes. Children affected by congenital ptosis may need to tilt their head back, lift their eyelid with a finger, or raise their eyebrows to see from under their drooping lid. Congenital ptosis is treated surgically and is generally performed during a child’s preschool years.
The diagnosis of a congenital cataract, or a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, can be made on the first day of life by a pediatrician in the newborn nursery. Early diagnosis and referral are important. Irreversible damage will occur if a congenital cataract is not treated in the first few months of life. If the cataract is determined to be visually significant, surgery is indicated to remove the lens.
Wolfe Eye Clinic offers expertise in childhood eye disorders such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eye) and congenital ptosis (drooping eyelid).