Each of our eyes has six external muscles that control eye position and movement. With strabismus, one or more of those muscles don’t function properly. According to Andrea V. Gray M.D. P.C, strabismus, or crossed eyes, is an eye condition where the eyes aren’t properly aligned. One eye may be looking straight ahead, while the other one is looking another way.
Strabismus can be consistent or intermittent. Which of the eyes is straight and which one is misaligned may also switch or alternate. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, roughly 4% of the US population suffers from this condition.
There are many possible causes of strabismus, with genetics being one of them. While it can be caused by untreated farsightedness and significant head trauma, the condition can also originate in the muscles in the eyes themselves or in the nerves or vision centers of the brain.
Symptoms and Signs
How do you know if you have strabismus? Andrea V. Gray M.D. P.C details some signs and symptoms of this medical condition.
Some signs of strabismus are:
- The misalignment of eyes, or having eyes that do not move together
- Inability to gauge depth
- Tilting the head to one side to compensate
- Excessive squinting with one eye
- Rubbing one or both eyes
There might not be any symptoms of strabismus, especially in young children or people with long-standing strabismus. If there are, these symptoms might be the following:
- Double vision, or diplopia
- Split vision
- Eyestrain or fatigue
- Difficulties with activities such as driving and reading
There are other symptoms that aren’t physical but mental. These include unpleasant sensations that involve an awareness that one eye is moving about, as well as an awareness that they are different and that people may be treating them differently as a consequence. This awareness may negatively affect people’s self-esteem and confidence.
Strabismus negatively affects the quality of life of the adults that have it. Luckily, there are ways to correct this issue. Usually, these treatments put the weakened muscles in the affected eye to work, so that the muscles get stronger. Depending on the type, cause, and severity of the strabismus, the treatments can be used in conjunction with each other. There are two kinds of treatments for strabismus: surgical and non-surgical.
Surgical treatment straightens and realigns the muscles in the eyes, even for adults with long-standing strabismus. The success of the surgery depends on many factors, including the direction and magnitude of the eye turn.
Meanwhile, non-surgical treatment includes using eyeglasses, medication, and patching to treat the eyes. Getting eyeglasses or contact lenses can help those who have strabismus because of uncorrected farsightedness. Patching, or covering, and using medication (eye drops) work in the same way: by covering or blurring the vision of the better-seeing eye, it forces the use of the weaker eye. This strengthens the weaker eye and gets it to align with the stronger eye.
The earlier the strabismus is treated, the more likely it is that the weaker eye will develop normally and for both eyes to properly function together. If you are one of the 4% that has strabismus, you may want to seek treatment for your condition as soon as possible.