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What is Strabismus?

October 12, 2016

As parents we worry about so many aspects of our children’s lives. Are they eating healthy, getting enough sleep and progressing developmentally. These are among some of the worries. Even as infants we worry about all sorts of milestones like crawling, walking and talking. One common worry that parents face is their child’s eyesight. One such visual problem that is found in approximately 4 percent of all children in the United States is strabismus. What is this disorder, what causes it and how is it treated?  Let’s explore some of these questions.

 

What is Strabismus?

Strabismus, or crossed eyes, is a condition in which both eyes do not look at the same place at the same time. It usually occurs in people who have poor eye muscle control or are very farsighted. Strabismus is the misalignment or wandering of one or both eyes either inward (called esotropia), outward (exotropia), up (hypertropia), or down (hypotropia). Parents may notice that this occurs when a child is tired or may occur constantly. While it is fairly typical for newborn’s eyes to wander or cross occasionally during the first few months of life, they should straighten out by 4-6 months.

 

Causes

Many things and/or events can cause a strabismus. They include genetics, inappropriate development of the “fusion center” of the brain, problems with the controlled center of the brain, injuries to muscles or nerves or other problems involving the muscles or nerves. Strabismus can be present at birth or develop in childhood. In most cases, the cause is unknown, although kids with a family history of strabismus are at an increased risk for it. Strabismus is especially common among children with disorders that may affect the brain, such as: Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Hydrocephalus, Brain tumors, and Prematurity.

 

Treatment

There are several treatment options to to improve eye alignment and coordination. They include:

 

  • Glasses – For some patients this is the only treatment that is needed.
  • Prism Lenses – These special lenses have a prescription for prism power in them.
  • Vision Therapy – Vision therapy trains the eyes and brain to work together more effectively. These eye exercises can help problems with eye movement, eye focusing and eye teaming and reinforce the eye-brain connection.
  • Surgery – Surgery can change the length or position of the muscles around the eye so they appear straight.