The child with strabismus rarely complains. In most cases, it is the appearance of the eye that first catches the parent’s attention. A child should be examined by an ophthalmologist whenever the eyes appear misaligned.
There are three basic kinds of strabismus: esotropia, exotropia and hypertropia, depending on which direction the eyes are deviated.
Strabismus in Adults
Although strabismus is much more common in children, many adults have strabismus, either since childhood or developed in adult life. No person is ever too old to have treatment for strabismus.
Treatment of strabismus may involve patching, eyeglasses, surgery or some combination of these therapies. Surgery is a delicate procedure performed on the muscles that attach to the outside of the eyeball. There are six muscles attached to each eyeball that orchestrate its movements.
Eye muscle surgery consists of weakening or strengthening one or more of these muscles in one or both eyes, depending on the type of strabismus. This procedure is done with the child asleep under general anesthesia. Usually, the child comes to the hospital the morning of the surgery and is discharged the same day, several hours after surgery. Once the child leaves the hospital, there is minimal discomfort. In most cases he or she may return to their usual activities at home within days. However, it should be noted that sometimes more than one surgery is required.
Most of us are fortunate: our eyes begin to work together from very early infancy and continue to function correctly as a team throughout life. We are able to focus each eye on whatever we look at, regardless of the direction, and our brain combines the picture or image from each eye into the mental picture that allows us to see in three dimensions (3-D). For approximately two out of every 100 children, the eyes do not work as a team for a variety of reasons. Both eyes are not directed or focused at the same object. This condition is called strabismus. Other common terms are “lazy eye,” crossed eyes, “wall eye” or misaligned eyes.
Many adults also have strabismus, either since childhood or developed in adult life (for example, after injury or brain surgery). No person is ever too old to have treatment for strabismus.