Strabismus is a problem with the alignment of the eyes. One or both of the eyes are turned in, out, up, or down.
Appearance of Strabismus
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There are two types:
- Constant strabismus—the eye turns all the time
- Intermittent strabismus—the eye turns only some of the time, like in times of stress, illness, concentration, or when tired
Strabismus is caused by a lack of coordination between the muscles in the eyes. This can happen due to:
- Problems, imbalances, or injuries of the muscles that move the eyes
Nervous system disorders that affect vision, such as:
- Problems or injury of the nerves that control the eye muscles
- Tumor in or near the eye or brain
or bleeding in the brain
- Increased pressure in the brain
- Myasthenia gravis
Strabismus is most common in children but may occur in adults.
Factors that increase your risk for strabismus include having:
Symptoms may include:
- Double vision
- Crossed eyes
- Eyes that do not align properly
- Uncoordinated eye movements
- Favoring a certain head position
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. You should also have an eye exam by an ophthalmologist. This specialist will test your eyesight and look for other potential eye problems. You may also be given a neurologic exam and other tests to rule out other possible causes.
Strabismus can lead to permanent vision loss if it is not detected and treated in a timely manner.
Treatment may include:
Glasses or contact lenses may be prescribed. They can improve your ability to focus and help overcome poor vision. With better eyesight, strabismus may improve. For some conditions, special prism lenses can be placed in the glasses. The prism will help to reduce double vision that may occur.
In children, an eye that is not properly aligned may not mature properly. If this is not corrected, permanent vision loss can occur. In some cases, a patch is applied over the unaffected eye. This forces the child to fixate and use the affected eye. This will help the visual development in that eye. The length of time the patch is worn depends on the severity of the condition and the age of the child.
Eye drops or ointment may be put in the good eye to temporarily blur the vision. This also forces the affected eye to fixate properly. These drops may be used as a substitute for patching.
Injections of botulinum toxin may also be used to treat strabismus. They affect the muscles surrounding the eyes.
Surgery may be used to straighten the eyes if nonsurgical means are not successful. The surgery will move some of the eye muscles into a new location. This may improve the ability of the eye muscles to keep the eyeball in its proper place.
There is no known way to prevent strabismus. If you notice that you or your child’s eyes are not properly aligned, visit your eye doctor right away.
American Association of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus website. Available at:
http://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/100. Updated March 28, 2014. Accessed January 13, 2015.
Strabismus. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 12, 2014. Accessed January 13, 2015.
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/general/eyes/strabismus.html. Updated October 2013. Accessed January 13, 2015.
What is strabismus?
American Academy of Ophthalmology EyeSmart website. Available at:
http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/strabismus.cfm. Accessed January 13, 2015.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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