What Is Strabismus?
Strabismus, more commonly called "cross-eyes," occurs when both eyes do not look at the same place at the same time.
The condition usually develops by age three.
What Causes Strabismus?
Strabismus can be a result of problems with your eye muscles, the nerves that transmit signals to the muscles, or the brain's control center that directs eye movements.
It can also be caused by eye injuries or general issues with your health.
In normal eyes, the six muscles that attach to each eye work in tandem, receiving signals from the brain to direct their movements.
With strabismus, one eye may turn in, out, up, or down, independent from the other eye.
This may be evident all the time or only occur when the eye is strained or when you are tired or sick.
Strabismus may affect the same eye all the time, or it may alternate between eyes.
Types of Strabismus
The two most common types of strabismus are:
Intermittent exotropia:This type of strabismus occurs when an eye or eyes tends to point beyond the object being viewed due to an inability to coordinate both eyes.
Side effects of intermittent exotropia are eye strain, difficulty reading, headaches, and difficulty with vision in bright sunlight.
Accommodative esotropia:This type of strabismus occurs because of uncorrected farsightedness; the extra strain needed to keep eyes focused may cause the eyes to turn inward.
Symptoms may include double vision, closing or covering one eye when reading or doing other close work, and tilting or turning of the head in an effort to focus properly.
What Is False Strabismus?
Many babies are born with the appearance of being cross-eyed, but do not have strabismus.
The appearance may be a result of extra skin covering the inner corner of the eyes or a wide bridge of the nose.
Children usually grow out of this appearance by the time they are one year old.
Risk factors for developing strabismus include:
- Family history
- Uncorrected farsightedness
- Medical conditions, such as Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, brain tumor, diabetes, or thyroid disorders
- Head injury
How is Strabismus Treated?
Treatments for strabismus include:
- Eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Patching the stronger eye
- Prism lenses: These lenses change the light entering the eye and help to reduce the amount of turning the eye has to do to focus
- Vision therapy: These eye exercises help to improve coordination and the eyes' ability to focus
An ophthalmologic surgeon can better align a person's eyes by altering the length or position of the eye muscles.
Strabismus surgery is generally an outpatient procedure that's performed while the patient is under general anesthesia.
The surgeon will either loosen or tighten the eye muscles to correct the alignment of the eyes.
In some cases, an adjustable suture is used to correct the eyes' alignment after the surgery is complete.
You may need to use an eye patch and antibiotic eye drops (with or without corticosteroids) following the surgery. Vision therapy may also be needed.
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