Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi physicians stress psychosocial in addition to visual benefits of early treatment

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Corrective eye surgery can help make children more confident, sociable and able to reach their full academic potential, in addition to the vision improvements they enjoy, say doctors at the Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health. 

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[1] 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. Left uncorrected, strabismus can affect fine motor control, depth perception, hand-eye coordination and even reading speed. However, potentially more damaging are the psychosocial effects strabismus can have on children as their personality develops.

“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.

These concerns were top of mind with Adam El Jammal’s parents when they noticed his eyes weren’t properly aligned at just two months old. Concerned that it could be a sign of more serious vision problems, they began consulting doctors to find the reason for the misalignment and whether it could be corrected.

“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 care team began with a comprehensive eye exam to determine the extent of his eye turn and rule out any further eye conditions that could be causing it. Not finding any, they began by fitting him for glasses to see if the strabismus could be corrected without surgery. Regular follow-ups over the next few months confirmed that while the glasses had improved Adam’s condition, surgery would be required to fully correct it.   

“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.

For more information or to book an appointment at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, call 800 8 CCAD (2223) visit www.clevelandclinicabudhabi.ae or download the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi app.

About Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi:

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, an integral part of Mubadala Health, is a multispecialty hospital on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is a unique and unparalleled extension of US-based Cleveland Clinic’s model of care, specifically designed to address a range of complex and critical care requirements unique to the Abu Dhabi population.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has the following Institutes: Heart & Vascular, Neurological, Digestive Disease, Eye, Respiratory, Critical Care, Surgical Subspecialties, Medical Subspecialties, Emergency Medicine, Anesthesiology, Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Imaging, Quality & Patient Safety, and Clinical & Nursing. In all, more than 40 medical and surgical specialties are represented at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

The facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi combine state-of-the-art amenities and world-class service standards. The hospital is a 394 (expandable to 490) bed facility, with five clinical floors, three diagnostic and treatment levels, and 13 floors of critical and acute inpatient units. It is a physician-led medical facility served by North American/European Board Certified (or equivalent) physicians. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi provides patients in the region direct access to the world’s best healthcare providers and Cleveland Clinic’s unique model of care, reducing their need to travel abroad for treatment.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi – Al Ain began offering select medical services in December 2017. The facility is located on the Tawam Hospital Campus in Al Ain.

About Mubadala Health:

Mubadala Health is the integrated healthcare network of Mubadala Investment Company. Established 2021, Mubadala Health operates, manages, and develops a portfolio of healthcare assets including: Abu Dhabi Telemedicine Centre (ADTC), Amana Healthcare, Capital Health Screening Centre (CHSC), Healthpoint, Imperial College London Diabetes Centre (ICLDC), and National Reference Laboratory (NRL). In addition, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is an integral part of Mubadala Health. With a vision to transform the regional healthcare landscape, Mubadala Health sets a new benchmark for the UAE and regional healthcare industry through its state-of-the-art facilities and world-class caregivers who strive to put patients first across its continuum of care. Innovation, research, and education are the foundational pillars of Mubadala Health, supporting the further development of a sustainable healthcare sector in line with the vision of Abu Dhabi and the region.