“Strabismus” is the term given to the eye condition in which the two eyes are not properly aligned. In strabismus, one eye is able to look straight ahead while the other eye turns inward or outward. Strabismus is usually caused by weakness in the muscles that control the movements of the eyes, or problems with the nerves that control these muscles. Eye turns are most commonly seen at a very young age, though in some conditions they can be acquired and appear later in life. If strabismus is not addressed early and appropriately, it can lead to long-term vision problems. Continue reading to learn more about eye turns and how to treat them.
A strabismus can appear in many different ways. The misaligned eye can turn in towards the nose, which is called an esotropia, or out towards the ear, which is called an exotropia. In a unilateral strabismus, the same eye is always misaligned. However, a strabismus may also be alternating, where both eyes can become misaligned. In some cases, the strabismus is constantly present, whereas in others it is an intermittent occurrence. In cases of constant unilateral strabismus, where one eye is constantly misaligned, there is concern for the development of amblyopia. This means that, in order to prevent visual confusion or double vision, the brain will learn to ignore the eye that is turned inward or outward, and that eye will fail to properly develop. While alternating and non-constant eye turns can still cause vision problems, they may not be as severe as the potential problems with constant strabismus. Sometimes a strabismus in children is easily noticed by parents, or even the child themselves, but a comprehensive eye examination is the best way to determine whether or not a strabismus is present.
It is important to treat strabismus so both eyes can grow and develop equally throughout childhood. Some cases can be treated with vision therapy. In cases of eye turns where the eyes are misaligned due to underlying problems with the focusing system, vision therapy can help strengthen the focusing ability of the eyes and prevent an eye from drifting out. Vision therapy can also help children to understand their vision and teach them to use their eyes together as much as possible. Many cases of strabismus require “patching” as part of the treatment process, in which the non-deviating normal eye is covered, which forces the brain to use and train the eye that typically turns in or out. In cases of very large or difficult-to-treat eye turns, surgery may be considered. Strabismus surgery includes adjusting the muscles around the eyes so that the eyes are properly aligned. Sometimes multiple surgeries are required in order to completely resolve a strabismus. Surgeries for eye-turns are performed by ophthalmologists, and they are usually performed on children where the potential for vision development still remains. While adults can choose to undergo strabismus surgery or to perform vision therapy, they have already undergone the process of vision development and a visual improvement is less likely. Despite this fact, many adults choose to attempt strabismus treatment for cosmetic reasons alone.