Sunday, February 04, 2007

Matilda's Eyes

On Thursday, Matilda and I went to see the paedeatric opthamologist about her crossed eyes. We were there for ages, as he had to dilate her pupils to get a good look in them (had to wait for 30 mins for the drops to take effect). He had some pretty nifty kids toys/instruments (like an Elmo shaped tool for shining a light into her eyes to look at them) and was very kind. After examining her, the Doctor has diagnosed Matilda with infantile esotropia (aka congenital esotropia, squint or both eyes turning in to the middle). He's recommended surgery to correct how her muscles are working, and to do the surgery before she turns 2. We have another checkup in about 6 weeks time to see if M is preferring one eye over the other. We've always thought her left eye turns in more than her right, but the Doctor didn't notice any preferences in the session on Thursday. If she is showing a preference for one eye, then she'll have to do some patching before surgery.
Gory details on the surgery: it is under general, but is only day surgery. M won't be able to swim for 6 weeks after the surgery, so we wouldn't have it in the middle of summer! Both eyes are operated on in the same surgery. On average, children with this condition have 2.6 surgeries to correct it, so there's a potential for M to have 3, maybe more, surgeries to correct this. There are some experimental treatments involving botox, but to have that you're already pretty much having half an operation anyway. M's eyes will look really gross afterwards, very very red, beyond bloodshot.
From my research on the web, the big concern if this isn't corrected is that M won't develop binocular vision correctly and her eyes won't work together. Not only does this have an impact on her vision, but also would have an impact on her brain development. We're not particularly keen on M having surgery (what parent is??), and are waiting for the next appointment before anything is seriously planned. Our friend, Dr Fred the paedeatric surgeon has assuaged my fears that operations and general anaesthetic for a little one are much less risky than driving around in the car.


Rhonda said...

Please, please, please get this done! I have strabismust - similar to what you're describing - and it wasn't diagnosed until I was 12. At 12 I had the operation, but my vision was already set in my brain. I've since researched it and found out that kids should be checked before they're 5, prefereably before they're 3 as corrective procedures such as patching can often be done without the need for surgery.

The result of my late diagnosis is that I have NO binocular vision and my depth perception is flaky at best. (Good qualities for someone who has now worked for two 3D software companies!)

So, what's the result of all this on my daily life? Well, I can't play any ball sports with any degree of success. And the smaller and faster the ball, the less chance I have of seeing it, hitting it square, etc. If that ball is coming through the air (like tennis) or is against a flat background (like squash) I have NO chance of seeing it or gauging where it is in relation to me. Balls coming off the ground aren't too bad as I sorta know instinctively how tall I am and how far away the ground is.

Other effects - driving at night is not a favourite task, especially with the street lights and lights of on-coming cars. They get a star effect and as I see double of everything, that's disconcerting - and could be dangerous. I also have a real problem with open stairways that have open railings too, and with extreme heights (no sense of depth, except I know I'm a long way up).

That said, you do compensate. There are many many ways that your body and brain detect three dimensions - binocular vision is just one cue. So without it, I still 'know' that a person or car is 3 dimensional - prior experience, touch, placement in relation to other things, watching it turn etc. Of course, this all happens instinctively now, but somewhere I 'learned' this.

Anyhow, I can't stress stroingly enough that you've done the right thing by taking M to an ophthamologist. And if she needs the surgery, please get it done. Don't wait, as time is crucial here - once her vision pattern is set, that's it.

Anonymous said...

I'm 56 years old and am having surgery this month to correct strabismus. 2 years ago an ophthalologist explained the strain this puts on my brain was like holding a 10 lb weight straight out all day. Who cares to try that? The prisms are so strong in my glasses that they cause distortion and I struggle with daily functions (esp outside).I wonder how different my life would have been if I could have had this surgery done as a child.