UNDERSTANDING STRABISMUS AND AMBLYOPIA
Strabismus is commonly referred to as a “crossed eye” or “wandering eye”. It is a visual condition in which a person is unable to align both eyes simultaneously. When the eyes do not point at the same object at the same time, the result is the appearance of one eye turning in relationship to the other.
A person with strabismus has reduced binocular function and depth perception.
People who have strabismus struggle with visual space orientation. This orientation is a mental phenomenon that exists in the visual cortex of the brain. If left untreated the eye that turns may develop reduced visual acuity, a condition known as amblyopia or “lazy eye”.
Whether the eye turn is constant or intermittent, strabismic patients can always benefit from treatment. This condition will not go away on its own, and children will not outgrow it. Studies show vision therapy is the most effective treatment for a type of strabismus known as convergence insufficiency often associated with ADD.
Amblyopia is commonly referred to as “lazy eye”. It is a visual condition that is manifested by reduced vision, which is not correctable by wearing glasses or contact lenses. Amblyopia is often the result of long‐term suppression of the eye’s signal to the brain.
Even though amblyopia can be found without strabismus, the two conditions are often found together.
The treatment of strabismus and amblyopia are quite similar. New research and clinical experience have shown that strabismus and amblyopia can be treated successfully at any age. The tradition of passively patching the “good eye” has fallen from favor as research demonstrates that constant patching can damage the binocular cells in the brain.
Newer treatment methods utilize minimal patching combined with appropriately prescribed visual activities that stimulate both the monocular and binocular cells.
Vision Therapy and Surgery
Vision Therapy is a progressive, non‐surgical method of retraining the eyes and brain to work together. During therapy, the patient engages in a series of exercises and procedures with lenses and prisms in conjunction with patching to build new eye coordination skills. The goal is that both eyes become cosmetically straight and work as a team. This results in improved accuracy of visual information making daily tasks easier.
Surgery for strabismus deals with the physical extraocular muscles. It is not related to the functioning of the eyes with the brain. The result of strabismus surgery may appear straight, but they are now in a position that the brain does not recognize. This often results in double vision or suppression of images from one or both eyes. The brain’s coordination with the eyes must be changed through vision therapy or strabismus may reoccur.
What if I see 20/20?
Many people with visual problems can pass 20/20 screenings. There is more to vision than visual acuity. Eyesight is the ability to see small objects at a given distance with or without lens correction. Vision is a learned skill that includes eye tracking, eye teaming, focusing, and perceptual skills. Both the eyes and the brain must work together to control the ability to interpret, identify, and make sense of what is seen by the eye.