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Both strabismus and amblyopia are conditions that affect the functioning of an individual’s visual system.
In strabismus, one of two things can happen: in crossed eyes, or estropia, one of the eyes turns inward. In wandering eyes, or extropia, one of the eyes aims outward. These conditions can be constant or intermittently brought on by fatigue, stress or intense concentration.
In most cases, strabismus is caused by poor eye teaming skills, such as when the signals traveling between the eyes and the brain become confused. This “eye-brain disconnect” causes the eyes to transmit different images to the brain, which doesn’t have a clear way of combining them into a singular, 3D image.
Over time, the brain will begin to suppress images from one eye to adapt to the confusion. This suppression of signals from one eye is known as amblyopia.
Amblyopia, or lazy eye, develops in children — many of whom aren’t even aware that they’re suffering from reduced vision. In fact, unless it’s accompanied by the wandering eye of strabismus, it can easily go undetected. Both strabismus and amblyopia can be very disruptive to a person’s life, causing problems with reading, writing, depth perception and concentration. Children often suffer in school, while adults may struggle to park their cars or play sports.
Vision therapy has a very high success rate for the treatment of both strabismus and amblyopia in adults and children. While vision therapy was once thought to be only effective for young children, recent studies have proven that the brain’s neuroplasticity allows the neuromuscular system to change at any age. These changes do happen more easily in younger patients, however, so it is critical that treatment begin as soon as possible. In an effort to catch functional disorders early, we at Northampton Vision Specialists recommend that all children receive a comprehensive eye exam by a developmental/behavioral optometrist within the first year of life. This recommendation is in line with that of the American Optometric Association, which advises all parents to schedule their child’s first eye exam between six months and one year of age.