In this particular episode of Ask an Eye Doc, you will learn:
- The medical definition of an eye turn
- How an eye turn can lead to lazy eye
- Why an eye turn itself is not lazy eye
- What is suppression
- What to do if your child has an eye turn
This is the second episode in a series about lazy eye. This episode will make more sense if you’ve already listened to:
- episode 32 – What is lazy eye? Part 1: amblyopia defined
Be sure to check out the next two episodes for more information about lazy eye:
- episode 34 – What is lazy eye? Part 3: refractive amblyopia
- episode 35 – What is lazy eye? Part 4: deprivation amblyopia
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For you readers out there, here’s the answer in written form:
In part 1 of this episode series about lazy eye, we learned how amblyopia, or lazy eye, is actually a brain problem and not an eye problem. We also talked about the three amblyogenic risk factors or eye conditions that can lead to amblyopia.
If this doesn’t sound familiar, be sure to listen to episode 32 first so that the rest of this episode makes sense. Today’s episode focuses on the first amblyogenic risk factor I mentioned in episode 32, which is strabismus.
Strabismus is an eye muscle imbalance that causes one of your eyes to turn a different direction than the other eye. This imbalance could be horizontal, meaning one eye turns in or out, or it could be a vertical imbalance, meaning one eye is turned up or down.
Most people think that an actual eye turn is called “lazy eye”, but that is not correct. An eye turn is only a risk factor that can lead to lazy eye. Let me explain:
With strabismus, your eyes are unable to look at the same target at the same time. This can cause double vision, since each eye is looking at a different target. However, if you were born with strabismus or developed it at a young age, your brain refuses to put up with the double vision and instead decides to simply ignore one of the eyes. This is called suppression.
If your brain consistently suppresses one eye over the other, the suppressed eye will become “lazy” or amblyopic. This is called strabismic amblyopia, because the amblyopia is caused by an eye turn or strabismus. As in all cases of amblyopia, the affected eye will not be able to see clearly by itself even with the correct prescription.
Not all strabismus leads to lazy eye. Some people have alternating strabismus, meaning their eyes are not aligned properly, but they can switch back and forth between each eye. Because both eyes get practice seeing things, each is able to develop the proper connection with the brain and neither eye ends up developing amblyopia. So it’s possible to have an eye turn but not have lazy eye.
What to do
So now you know what strabismic amblyopia is!
If you notice that your child has a wandering eye, make sure you schedule an appointment with your local optometrist to have his or her eyes evaluated and a proper treatment plan in place to prevent that eye from developing amblyopia. It’s never too late to take action, but the sooner your child sees the eye doctor, the better.