What is strabismus?

Strabismus is a condition where the eyes are not correctly aligned. While one eye looks directly at the viewed object, the other eye will be turned inward, outward, upward or downward. It is one of the most common eye conditions in children, but it can also occur in adults.

It is commonly known as “crossed” or “turned” eyes, and sometimes it is intermittent and only noticeable when a child is tired. Often caused by problems with the muscles or nerves controlling the eye, strabismus should be investigated as early as possible, as it is a condition that children will not outgrow. Apart from the vision problems it causes, strabismus can also cause significant issues with self-esteem, as both children and adults with the condition feel very self-conscious about how they appear when having eye contact with other people.

Symptoms

  • Crossed or misaligned eyes

  • Double vision

  • Vision loss

  • Frequent blinking or squinting

  • Head tilting to see things

  • Depth perception issues

In a young child with strabismus, two different images are sent to the brain. This may initially cause double vision, however the brain eventually learns to ignore the image of the misaligned eye and sees only the image from the straight eye. This can also result in a loss of depth perception. Strabismus more commonly develops in  young children, mostly by age 3, however older children and adults can also develop the condition. Adults who develop strabismus often have double vision because the brain has already learned to accept images from both eyes.

Treatment of strabismus

Early detection and treatment of strabismus can have excellent results. The patient will have a thorough eye examination with our strabismus specialist, who will recommend appropriate treatment. The aims of strabismus treatments are to straighten the eyes, restore binocular vision and correct associated vision loss (amblyopia). These treatments may include:

  • Glasses

  • Eye patching

  • Eye drops

  • Vision therapy

  • Squint (strabismus) surgery

Squint (strabismus) surgery

During strabismus surgery, the eye muscles are loosened or tightened in order to change the alignment of the eye. Strabismus surgery is performed in an operating theatre under a general anaesthetic, and the patient usually goes home the same day.

FAQs

No, strabismus cannot be prevented, however complications can be prevented if detected and treated early enough.

If strabismus is not treated, the eye that is misaligned may develop significant vision loss. It is also essential to investigate strabismus early in order to rule out other more serious causes.

It is never too late to treat strabismus. You may have had the condition since childhood, or perhaps it developed later in life, possibly caused by an injury or medical condition. In either case, treatment can usually improve symptoms.