Strabismus (Crossed or Turned Eyes)

What is strabismus?

Strabismus is a visual defect in which the eyes are misaligned and point in different directions. The misalignment may always be noticeable, or it may come and go. One eye may be directed straight ahead, while the other eye is turned inward, outward, upward or downward. The turned eye may straighten at times and the straight eye may turn. Strabismus is a common condition among children, affecting about four percent but can also occur later in life. It occurs equally in males and females and may run in families. However, many people with strabismus have no relatives with the problem. When one eye turns, as in strabismus, two different pictures are sent to the brain. In a young child, the brain learns to ignore the image of the misaligned eye and sees only the image from the straight or best seeing eye. This causes loss of depth perception and binocular vision. Adults who develop strabismus often have double vision because the brain is already trained to receive images from both eyes and cannot ignore the image from the turned eye.

Treatment of strabismus

After a complete eye examination, including a detailed study of the inner parts of the eye, an ophthalmologist can recommend appropriate optical, medical or surgical therapy.

Treatment goals for strabismus are to preserve vision, to straighten the eyes, and to restore binocular vision. Covering or patching the good eye to improve vision in the amblyopic eye is often necessary. Depending on the cause of the strabismus, treatment may involve repositioning the unbalanced eye muscles, removing a cataract, or correcting other conditions, which are causing the eyes to turn.

Summary

  • Children do not outgrow strabismus
  • Treatment for strabismus is most effective when the child is young
  • Straightening of the eyes remains possible at any age and can result in improved side vision
  • Treatment for strabismus may be non-surgical and include eye drops, exercises or glasses
  • If surgical treatment is indicated, the earlier in life it is done, the better chance the child has of developing normal binocular vision