Understanding Strabismus

Although most people think of the term crossed-eyed as meaning one thing, the clinical term strabismus can actually mean different varieties of this condition where the two eyes don’t effectively work together.

While not typical, strabismus is not rare, either. The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus estimates that approximately 4 percent of the U.S. population has crossed eyes or some other type of strabismus.

At Central Valley Eye Medical Group, we can successfully treat strabismus and get the eyes working together as a team.

What is strabismus?

If a person has strabismus, one eye looks directly at an object, while the other eye is misaligned in another direction. The orientation of the misaligned eye gives the different forms of strabismus their names.

  • Inward (estotropia) — This is the more commonly thought of “crossed eyes.” This happens when the eye muscles are not strong enough to compensate and keep the eyes pointing straight ahead.
  • Outward (exotropia) — Sometimes referred to as wall-eyed, in this form of strabismus the misalignment is outward. Again, the eye muscles are not strong enough to keep the eyes straight ahead.
  • Upward (hypertropia) — Here, the misaligned eye is directed upward.
  • Downward (hypotropia) — The misaligned eye is pointing downward.

Strabismus can be constant or intermittent. The misalignment also might always affect the same eye, known as unilateral strabismus, or it can alternate between both eyes, alternating strabismus.

When strabismus is congenital or in early childhood, to prevent double vision, the brain ignores the visual input from the misaligned eye, which typically leads to amblyopia (lazy eye) in that eye.

What causes strabismus?

Each eye has six external muscles that control eye position and movement. For normal binocular vision, the position, neurological control, and functioning of these muscles for both eyes must be coordinated perfectly.

Strabismus occurs where there are neurological or anatomical problems that affect these muscles. Genetics plays a large role in the probability of a child having strabismus.

Strabismus can be treated either with surgery, which is usually necessary in cases where there is constant eye turn, or through non-surgical means with vision therapy. Treatment depends on the unique situation of the patient.

If you have a child who is showing signs of strabismus, please bring him or her in to see us at Central Valley Eye Medical Group. Call us at (800) 244-9907 to make an appointment.

Posted in: Eye Conditions

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