According to experts at the Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, corrective eye surgery can help youngsters become more confident, sociable, and capable of reaching their full academic potential, in addition to eyesight benefits.
Strabismus, more commonly referred to as crossed eyes, is one of the most common pediatric eye conditions identified by doctors. The condition affects up to 4% of children and refers to the eyes not being properly aligned, which leads to the brain using one eye at a time, rather than both together for full binocular perception. Strabismus can impair fine motor function, depth perception, hand-eye coordination, and even reading speed if left untreated. However, the emotional repercussions of strabismus on youngsters as their personalities grow are potentially more harmful.
“The immediate problems children can experience because of poor binocular vision in terms of things like fine motor control and academic achievement are generally well understood. However, the psychosocial effects are less talked about. A child with misaligned eyes is seen and treated differently by other children overtly and even by adults, even if only at a subconscious level. This affects a child’s self-esteem, confidence and personality development. Beyond the benefits to vision, correcting an eye turn means giving a child the best possible chance in life,” says Dr. Arif Khan, a pediatric ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
When Adam El Jammal's parents noticed his eyes weren't aligned properly at the age of two months, they were concerned. They began visiting experts to determine the cause of the misalignment and whether it could be repaired, fearful that it could be a symptom of more serious visual problems.
“At first we thought it might just be that newborn’s eyes aren’t always fully aligned. However, after another month or so, we were quite concerned it could be more than that. As a parent, you want your child to have the best chance of understanding the world around him and not feel isolated or unable to interact. That’s when we began consulting doctors and finally met Dr. Khan,” says Mohamad El Jammal, Adam’s father.
Adam's medical team started with a thorough eye exam to identify the extent of his eye turn and rule out any other disorders that could be causing it. They started by fitting him for spectacles to see whether the strabismus could be rectified without surgery, but they couldn't find any. The glasses had improved Adam's condition, but surgery would be necessary to properly correct it, according to regular follow-ups over the next few months.
“Adam had good vision but rather than using his eyes together, he was using one at a time. It was crucial that we operated on Adam as early as possible while the brain-eye connection was still developing. By performing the surgery early, we give him the best chance for the right connections to develop between the eyes and the brain, allowing him to take in the world with both eyes at once,” continues Dr. Khan.
When Adam was still only 11 months old, he underwent ambulatory eye muscle surgery. During the 40-minute operation, his eye muscles were repositioned to compensate for the eye turn. By realigning his eyes, the brain would be able to lock in the new straight-ahead position as the correct one.
Following the surgery, the improvement in Adam’s vision was almost immediately apparent to his parents.
“Immediately after the surgery, you could feel Adam was happier and more relaxed. He was more interactive with us because his field of view became bigger. We really noticed he was quite excited about it for a couple of days. Now he’s running around the house, happy with the world around him. I really want to tell parents in a similar situation not to delay or leave it to chance -- the earlier you speak to a doctor, the better,” concludes Mohamad.
Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Eye Institute employs specialized pediatric ophthalmologists and orthoptists able to examine children of all ages for vision problems in a child-friendly way and without the need for anesthesia. When necessary, the team can perform corrective surgery, even for rare congenital disease in newborns. Doctors recommend that all children have an initial eye exam at approximately the age of four. Effective screening enables visual problems to be treated during childhood, when they are most correctable as the visual system is still developing. However, if parents suspect a child has an eye problem, the child should be examined as soon as possible, regardless of age.
We wish Adam much happiness with his corrected vision.