Commonly referred to as cross-eyed, strabismus is a condition where both eyes don’t look in the same direction at the same time. This disorder frequently occurs in patients with poor eye muscle control or those who are extremely farsighted. Without proper alignment, your eyes can’t work as a team, so one eye looks directly at an object you’re viewing while the other is misaligned in another direction. For some patients, strabismus symptoms are constant, while for others, it can be intermittent. Both eyes can be cross-eyed, or the condition can only affect one eye. The directionality of misalignment can also change.
Strabismus is especially common among children, with 4% of children in the United States suffering from the condition. It’s important to treat strabismus and have proper eye alignment to avoid double vision, have good depth perception, and prevent poor vision in a strabismus-affected eye. The brain gets confused by seeing two different images simultaneously and may begin to ignore what the “turned” sees. At first, this results in double vision but can lead to amblyopia (lazy eye) over time, permanently reducing vision in one eye.
What Causes Strabismus?
There are several factors that can cause strabismus in children or adults, including issues in the eye muscles, nerve connections, or the brain itself. Strabismus can also be caused by eye injuries or from other health conditions. Risk conditions for strabismus include:
- Family History — If your parents or siblings suffer strabismus, you’re more likely to develop the condition.
- Medical Conditions — Those with conditions like Down syndrome and cerebral palsy are more likely to have strabismus. If you’ve had a stroke or brain injury, you’re also at greater risk for strabismus symptoms.
- Refractive Error — If you are significantly farsighted and it’s gone uncorrected, you can develop strabismus symptoms as your eyes struggle to focus and see images clearly.
There are two common forms of strabismus: accommodative esotropia and intermittent exotropia. Accommodative esotropia is often caused by uncorrected farsightedness (hyperopia), as people over-focus to see clearly, turning their eyes inward. Intermittent exotropia occurs when you can’t coordinate your eyes together, and you see beyond what you’re looking at. Sufferers of intermittent exotropia frequently experience headaches and have difficulty reading.
How Is Strabismus Treated?
If you or your child has strabismus, there are several treatment options that can help improve the alignment of your eyes and train them to work together. With the proper vision therapy, you can overcome convergence insufficiency (CI) and other symptoms of strabismus to reduce issues like eye strain, blurred and double vision, and headaches. Consult with a vision therapy center like OCVT to develop a plan for strabismus treatment, which can include the following:
- Vision Correction — Eyeglasses or contact lenses to improve vision
- Vision Therapy — This will include at-home and in-office visual activities to train your eyes to work together. These exercises will work to progress problems with eye movement and improve the connection between your brain and eyes.
- Surgery — This option is only cosmetic and will not fix any issues with your strabismus.
Talk with a vision therapist today about ways to treat adult or childhood strabismus and get on a path towards training your eyes to work better together.
The content of this blog has been reviewed for accuracy by
Erica O’Brien, OD, FCOVD – Clinical Director, OCVT
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