My two month-old baby’s eyes don’t seem to work together. Since I had a “lazy eye,” do you think my son will too?
There are several different medical conditions that may be referred to by the lay population as lazy eye. The two major types are Amblyopia and Strabismus.
For the nine months that the child was developing inside the uterus there was no need for the eyes to focus on a single point with both eyes. Once the child is delivered he/she needs to learn how to focus on a subject in front of him/her. Initially the eyes see independently. This of course could be very confusing to the brain to process these separate images and understand it’s environment. Thus over the first four months of life, the child develops this ability to focus with both eyes thereby developing binocular vision (3-D vision with depth perception). If there is any obstruction to clear vision (such as a cataract), if the eye can’t focus, or if there is another condition not correctable by eyeglasses, Amblyopia will develop. Since it is too difficult to make sense of the unfocused and focused views, the brain “shuts down” the blurred vision. Thus, if there is no intervention made, the child’s vision will worsen in the eye that started with the problem. This condition is estimated to occur in approximately 3 percent of children. Most of these types of problems are random conditions, and do not seem to “run in families.”
Chidren with a Strabismus are unable to align their eyes for proper vision due to a weakness or descepancy in the length of one of the muscles of the eye; therefore, when the eyes try to focus, they cannot do so for more than a short time, and the eye will stray. This causes two separate images, and the child may see “double” because of it. Once again, since this is difficult for the brain to proces, it will frequently “shut down” one of the eye’s images thereby reducing the acuity of that eye. This then leads to Amblyopia or a true “lazy eye.” The incidence of this condition is approximately 5 percent of children. There is a tendency to see this trait in families without a true genetic inheritance. If one parent had a “lazy eye” in their past, then there is a somewhat greater degree of one their offspring to have one; however, it is not that much greater than the general population.
Children prior to four months will have eyes that seem to “wander.” After this time they should remain straight and focused. If there are any concerns, it is necessary to make sure that your child is evaluated.