Crooked Eyes

Problems with crooked eyes seem fairly common with children. Does this occur at an early age?

About 3 per cent of children suffer from this condition that has a variety of names. Some call it squint, or strabismus, or deviating eyes. The common name is “cross-eyes.” It can occur from birth, and may be noticed early by observant parents. It’s hard to be absolutely definite under the age of six months.

The problem is that light rays entering the eye are not parallel. So two images are formed on the brain, which do not fuse in the normal way. Usually two images are formed. These are marginally different, but are interpreted by the brain as one. This enables a three-dimensional picture to form, having length, breadth and depth.

With deviating eyes, two entirely separate images are formed that are too far apart to fuse. So the brain identifies two different pictures. The result is that it will suppress one, usually that from the deviating eye. Unless this is corrected, this suppression will accentuate until the vision may fail entirely in that eye. This will result in the loss of an appreciation for depth.

Crooked Eyes Treatment

Treatment is satisfactory, but the sooner it is recognized and therapy started, the better. It will not cure itself and there is no place for home do-it-yourself treatment. Referral to an eye specialist is essential for an appraisal. In the early stages, simple therapy is often satisfactory. The good eye may be patched, making the deviating eye work all the time. This may rapidly strengthen it, so that it will work normally soon after. If it is left, this takes a much longer time.

Surgery is now rarely necessary. Alternative remedies usually work. Only if they fail, the doctor may reassess and operate. In any event, eye exercises usually follow. These are called orthoptics. The earlier the squint occurs, the greater is the likelihood of surgery becoming necessary.

I advise parents always to be on the lookout for any deviating eye disability in their infant, often in the first year of life. Prompt early attention tends to yield the best results.