WHAT IS STRABISMUS?
Strabismus is a visual defect in which the eyes are misaligned and point in different directions. One eye may look straight ahead, while the other eye turns inward, outward, upward or downward. The eye turn may be constant, or it may come and go. Which eye is straight (and which is misaligned) may switch or alternate.
Strabismus is a common condition among children. About 4 percent of all children in the
United States have strabismus. It can also occur later in life. Strabismus occurs equally in males and females. It may run in families; however, many people with strabismus have no relatives with tile problem.
With normal vision, both eyes aim at the same spot. The brain then combines the two pictures into a single three-dimensional image. This three-dimensional image gives us
depth perception. When one eye Is out of alignment, two different pictures are sent to the brain. In a young child, the brain learns to ignore the image of the misaligned eye and sees only the image from the straight or better-seeing eye. The child then loses depth perception.
Adults who develop strabismus often have double vision b€cause their brains have already learned to receive images from both eyes and cannot ignore the image from the turned eye. A child generally does not see double.
HOW IS STRABISMUS TREATED?
After a complete eye examination, an ophthalmologist can recommend appropriate treatment. In some cases, eyeglasses can be prescribed for your child to straighten the eyes. Other treatments may involve surgery to correct the unbalanced eye muscles or to remove a cataract. Covering, blurring or patching the strong eye to improve amblyopia is often necessary. Treatment for strabismus works to straighten the eyes and restore binocular (two-eyed) vision.
The eyeball is never removed from the socket during any kind of eye surgery. The ophthamologist makes a small incision in the tissue covering the eye to reach the eye muscles. The eye muscles are detached from the wall of the eye and repositioned during the surgery, depending on which direction the eye is turning. It may be necessary to perform surgery on one or both eyes. When strabismus surgery is performed on
children, a general anesthetic is required.
Recovery time is rapid. Children are usually able to resume their normal activities within
a few days. After surgery, glasses may still be required. In some cases, more than one surgery may be needed to straighten the eyes. As with any surgery, eye muscle surgery has certain risks. These include infection, bleeding, excessive scarring and other rare complications that can lead to loss of vision. Strabismus surgery is usually a safe and effective treatment for eye misalignment. It is not, however, a substitute for glasses or amblyopia therapy.