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Common eye problems in children

Strabismus

Strabismus may be known as turned eyes, crossed eyes, squint, or lazy eyes. Strabismus occurs when the eyes point in different directions. When one eye is straight the other may point in, out, up or down. This may be noticeable all the time, or it may come and go. It may be present at birth or appear later. In babies and children with strabismus, the vision in the turned eye will not develop normally. Children do not outgrow strabismus. Treatment is most effective when commenced at an early age. Treatment is carried out by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) and orthoptist.

The aims of strabismus treatment are:

- good vision in both eyes
- good appearance
- coordinated eyes (that is, depth perception)

Treatment of strabismus may include glasses, patching, exercises, or surgery and is usually a combination of these.

Amblyopia

Amblyopia occurs when one eye becomes lazy because it is not receiving as clear a picture as its fellow eye. The most common causes of amblyopia are strabismus, refractive error (incorrect focusing power), ptosis (droopy eyelid) and cataract (opacity in the lens). If left untreated it can lead to very poor vision. Vision can be improved in many cases of amblyopia when treatment is undertaken at an early age.

Epiphora

Epiphora or watering eyes may occur if the duct that drains tears from the eye to the nose becomes blocked. In many cases, blocked tear ducts get better by themselves, but if this doesn’t happen within 12 months, or frequent infection becomes a problem, treatment in the form of a minor surgical procedure may be necessary. Blocked tear ducts are not the only cause of watering eyes so an eye examination is suggested.

Remember: Occasionally, serious conditions can have signs and symptoms similar to those described above. For this reason children with suspected eye problems should be examined.

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