Newborn babies often look as if their eyes are crossed. This is because it takes them a few weeks to learn how to make both their eyes work together properly. Once in a while, a child’s eyes don’t straighten out and they remain permanently crossed.
Having crossed eyes usually doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with the eyes themselves. The trouble is with one or more of the muscles attached to the outside of the eyeball. All of us have ocular muscles, six around each eye, which allow us to move our eyes in all directions. For some reason or other, certain children have muscles that are either too weak or too strong. When that happens, the affected eyeball doesn’t move the way it should. Instead of both eyes moving in the same direction at the same time, the eye with the problem muscle or muscles stays in the same place or turns the wrong way. The child then looks cross-eyed.
Movement and position of the eyeball are controlled by muscles at the sides and top and bottom of the sclera, or hard white shell of the eye. Crossed eyes are corrected surgically by weakening a muscle to lengthen it or shortening a muscle to strengthen it. Such operations are usually done when a child is four or five years of age.
Unfortunately, there are boys and girls who tease and make fun of a child with crossed eyes. This is a very mean thing to do, and we know you would never do it, would you? Of course not! You understand that crossed eyes are just like any other thing that may go wrong with a child that is beyond his control.
Eye doctors know how to fix crossed eyes without too much trouble. They usually do it when a child is about four to five years of age. To straighten out the eyes, it is necessary to go to the hospital for a few days and to have an operation. Luckily, it won’t hurt, because the child goes to sleep before the operation, and there is very little pain after the operation is over. A bandage is placed over both eyes for a day after the operation, but then the child sees again and, in all probability, will see a lot better than he or she did before. It is only necessary to stay in the hospital for three to four days after the operation. However, a child whose eyes have been straightened should not take part in too strenuous activities—like riding a bicycle, swimming, roughhousing or things like that—for a few weeks.
Occasionally, after an operation to correct crossed eyes, a child will see double for a few weeks. However, that disappears as the child learns how to make both eyes work together.