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Strabismus is a relatively common eye condition that may be referred to as “cross-eyed” or “wall-eyed,” depending on the direction the eye points. It is not the same as amblyopia, but it often strabismus causes this disorder.
When one eye fails to point and focus in the same direction as the other, optometrists call this strabismus. It can occur in several forms, differentiated by the direction the eye turns, how far it turns, whether it happens all the time or only sometimes, and whether it affects one or both eyes.
Strabismus occurs because of problems with the visual system. However, these problems may be in either the eye muscles or the brain. It is normal for some degree of strabismus to be present in infants, while the visual system is still developing. If a child looks "cross-eyed" or "wall-eyed" after six months of age, he or she should certainly be evaluated.
If strabismus remains untreated, the brain will compensate in some way. Often, it compensates by ignoring the visual input from the misaligned eye. This can cause a condition called amblyopia, or “lazy eye” if the strabismus occurs before approximately nine years of age. Amblyopia describes markedly reduced vision in one eye that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Intermittent or alternating strabismus is less likely to cause amblyopia because the brain receives sufficient normal vision from both eyes most of the time.
Eye doctors screen patients for strabismus because the earlier that treatment is started, the more effective it is. There are two common treatment methods for strabismus: surgery and vision therapy. Sometimes, both types of eye care are used in combination.
A few children may develop strabismus because they are overcompensating for a large farsighted glasses prescription. Glasses or contacts are usually the treatment of choice in these cases.
Surgery for strabismus targets the six muscles that control eye movement. This type of treatment focuses on correcting the physical problems associated with the condition.
Vision therapy may be used as a way of retraining the brain, either on its own or in combination with surgery. Minor cases of small-angle strabismus are most likely to improve with vision therapy but without surgery.
Carolina Vision Care offers comprehensive screening and treatment for many kinds of visual disorders, and we believe that all children should receive an eye exam that is thorough enough to detect problems like small-angle strabismus. In fact, regular eye care is important for everyone. To schedule an appointment with us, contact us at 252-752-4380.