Last night, my daughter experienced double vision. But panic soon gave way to reassurance. It was not a bad thing. Surprisingly, I haven’t lost my mind. (Though if I did, would I know it? Anywho.) Please allow me to explain.
Stella, whose vision I’ve covered here at Little Four Eyes before, just turned three. When she was 18 months old, her accommodative esotropia and anisometropia were discovered and addressed with glasses. Her stylish specs keep her eyes straight–HOORAY! We still patch a little bit, because her left eye is more farsighted than the right and so has slightly lower acuity (really, less than one line difference at last check). We’re finishing up vision therapy. Stella can catch a ball, now without using her chest to corral it. She can snag falling feathers with the grace of a major league outfielder, and hit a birdie with a racket, not so much with grace (yet) but with real and consistent contact. Her peripheral vision was opened up by the vision therapy, and her toe-walking reduced. She’s doing very well, and even asks to do our daily at-home vision therapy activities. Amazing progress all around.
Last night, when I heard her crying out from bed, I blamed the cold she’s been battling. I went in to comfort her and help blow her nose. As I leaned over her, I saw a dazed smile on her face. That’s when she said, “I see two mommies.” I looked more closely, and sure enough, her left eye was turned in. I so rarely see her eyes cross–because she almost always wears her glasses. The sight is still a punch in the gut, but I quickly put the pieces together and saw a big positive.
First off, she has a cold–the stress of illness is what brought out her strabismus out in the first place.
Secondly, she wasn’t wearing her glasses. Spec-free, all bets are off, particularly when she’s studying something up close. At least until age 11 to 13 or so, she’ll need glasses to keep her eyes aligned. The vision therapy helped re-wire her brain to always use her eyes, aligned by glasses, together. If her glasses were on and I saw crossing, only then would I have real reason for concern.
Lastly, and this felt like a big and helpful realization to me: She wasn’t suppressing the weaker eye. She saw double because she was trying to use both eyes as usual. If her weaker eye was being tuned out, she wouldn’t experience double vision. Typically, again thanks to her glasses, her eyes are aligned and work together, enabling great stereoscopy as recently measured by both her new ophthalmologist (who is wonderful) and her developmental optometrist (also super fantastic). It’s no wonder Stella found the double vision amusing and unusual. She’s used to two eyes in concert, not in conflict.
Upon further obsession (err, reflection), I was pleased with how she quickly articulated what was going on. Back when she got her glasses, half a lifetime ago for this three-year-old, she had a relatively good vocab for her age but obviously couldn’t describe her vision to me. She also refused to even look at the feather I held in my hand above her head, nevermind catch one. She’s come a long way!
All that said, last night was a good reminder about how crucial it is for Stella to wear her glasses at all times (sleep, bath, and swimming excluded). I’ll confess that sometimes, upon waking, she comes to our still-darkened room and hangs out in our bed for a bit, usually without her glasses. About time we made “glasses on!” the very first step in our day.
Now, if only she could effectively clean her glasses on her own. This cold is resulting in permanently smeared lenses! (Ew.)