Good Healthcare Requires Treatment of Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Good Healthcare Requires Treatment of Your Mind, Body, and Soul

What Therapies Can Provide Permanent Improvement For Your Vision-Impaired Toddler?

by Hugh Larson

If you've recently taken your toddler to a pediatric ophthalmologist for consultation about his or her slightly-crossed eyes, you may be dismayed to hear the diagnosis of strabismus -- a weakness of the muscles responsible for controlling eye movement. While strabismus is a relatively common diagnosis for toddlers and preschoolers, affecting about 4 percent of children in the U.S., it can still be upsetting to hear that your child may need glasses, vision therapy, or even corrective surgery to restore his or her eyes to normal function. Fortunately, there exists a wide variety of treatments that can help strengthen your child's eye muscles and avoid the need for ongoing therapy into his or her later childhood or teen years. Read on to learn more about the therapy options for your strabismus-suffering toddler.

What treatments are commonly recommended for childhood strabismus?

Because strabismus generally involves weakening of the muscles that help move the eye side to side and up and down, one common  first-step treatment is glasses. Unlike the glasses many adults wear to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, these pediatric strabismus glasses are designed to force the "lazy" eye's muscles to work harder to focus and follow the dominant eye. After wearing these glasses on a regular basis for some period of time, your child's eye muscles should strengthen enough so that he or she is able to track the visual path of an item without a waver from either eye.

Most cases of mild to moderate strabismus that doesn't seem to be significantly impeding a child's vision will first be treated with glasses before moving to more invasive or time-intensive options like vision therapy or corrective surgery; however, in some cases, the glasses may be ineffective such that follow-up treatment is necessary. 

Vision therapy is another option for toddlers and preschoolers with strabismus. This therapy focuses on improving the coordination and response time of the eye muscles, and is designed to be palatable to (and enjoyable for) children by mimicking play. A vision therapist may ask your child to track an item with his or her eyes, to read letters or numbers jumbled on a piece of paper, or to play memory games where he or she tries to scan a long list of items and then identify them without looking. In addition to entertaining and educating your child, these games can intensively train his or her eye muscles to respond quickly to mental commands. 

A final strabismus-correction option is surgery to repair or replace the affected eye muscles. Because of the invasiveness of this procedure and the difficulty parents can have in enforcing post-operative instructions with children who are often too young to understand, this is generally reserved for cases of strabismus that have a major impact on vision or don't respond well to other treatments. During strabismus surgery, your child's physician will reattach or replace the weak eye muscles with stronger ones that can provide full control over movement.

How can you decide which treatment is best for your child's condition? 

When deciding a treatment plan for your child, you'll want to take a number of factors into account -- from your child's age and general cooperation with physicians to the severity of your child's strabismus, your family's history of eye disorders (or diseases that can affect the eyes, like diabetes), and the availability of vision therapists or pediatric ophthalmologists within easy driving distance from your home. 

In many cases, mild strabismus will self-correct with the use of glasses and the passage of time. However, cases of strabismus that affect your child's vision may need to be dealt with more handily to prevent your child from suffering developmental delays -- vision problems like strabismus can impede your child's ability to read and sometimes even inhibit social development. In these cases, embarking on a vision therapy regimen or seeking a surgical consult can be the best way to ensure your child doesn't face lifelong consequences of poor childhood vision.

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About Me

Good Healthcare Requires Treatment of Your Mind, Body, and Soul

I have worked in a supportive role in the medical industry for over 20 years, and I have been amazed at the advances in medicine that have been made. While it is always great to hear about a new medication that helps cure a disease or a new surgical procedure that can help someone live a normal life again after an injury, I have been especially amazed at the research that has shown just how much our physical and mental health are connected. Since I keep on top of all of the amazing medical studies being performed and I know others are too busy to hunt them down themselves, I decided to start a blog to share my favorite health tips for keeping both your mind and body healthy.