Cross-eyed kids: should you be concerned?

By Drum Digital
20 August 2014

Babies often appear to be cross-eyed after birth, but generally their eyes align of their own accord quite quickly. But when should you be concerned about this condition and what can you do to correct it?

Babies often appear to be cross-eyed after birth, but generally their eyes align of own accord quite quickly. But when should you be concerned about this condition and what can you do to correct it?

Eye development in infants

In order to understand this condition it’s important to understand the development of an infant’s eye muscle system, says to Cape Town paediatrician Dr Iqbal Karbanee. “When a baby is born the eyes can perceive light, but the baby is not yet developed enough to understand what is seen. In addition, the muscles that control eye movement are also developing and are not yet of equal strength. This is the reason why newborn babies are unable to focus on objects.” Dr Karbanee explains it takes six to eight weeks for a baby’s ability to focus to develop. “Even after eight weeks it could still be normal for your baby to appear to be cross-eyed. This could be due to small differences in the strength of eye muscles as they develop.”

When should you be concerned?

So if your baby is cross-eyed, do you simply brush it off or seek medical assistance? According to Dr Karbanee, if your child’s eyes look asymmetrical from birth and their condition doesn’t improve during their first few months you should have your baby assessed. “As a rule, in all cases where a child is still cross-eyed or squint after the age of six months they should be assessed by a doctor or preferably an eye specialist.” He adds that if a squint suddenly appears in a child of any age the child must be taken to the doctor immediately.

Cause and treatment

Being cross-eyed can be caused by a condition called amblyopia. It develops when the brain suppresses vision in one eye. This can happen if your baby’s eyes are misaligned or if they can’t see as well with one eye because of nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or something that’s blocking clear vision in that eye, such as a cataract or a drooping eyelid. Amblyopia can worsen if left untreated so it’s important to act immediately. The condition can be difficult to treat after the age of five. Treatment is often pretty simple and involves wearing an eye patch over the good eye which encourages the “lazy” eye to start working.

Your paediatrician should check your baby’s eyes during routine check-ups and if there’s a cause for concern should refer your baby to an eye specialist.

-Lindsay de Freitas

Extra sources: babycenter.com, parenting.com

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