Many medical conditions develop at young ages or are present at birth, and several of these are related to the eyes. As one of the most complex parts of the body, the eyes are susceptible to several conditions that can impact vision.
One of these conditions is called strabismus, also referred to as crossed eyes or walleyes. This is a condition where the eyes are not properly aligned, which means they don’t work in harmony to help the brain see and process visual images.
Types of Strabismus
There are a few different types of strabismus, described by the direction of misalignment in the eye. They’re categorized into horizontal and vertical strabismus:
- • Horizontal strabismus: When eyes are turned inward, known as “crossed eyes,” it is referred to as esotropia. When eyes turn outward, known as “wall-eyed,” it is called exotropia.
- • Vertical strabismus: When one abnormal eye is located higher than a normal eye, it is called hypertropia. When an abnormal eye is lower than a normal eye, it is called hypotropia.
Causes of Strabismus
Many cases of strabismus are congenital, meaning it is present from birth, and many of these cases don’t have any known causes. When causes are known, however, the most common is an abnormality in the brain’s ability to control your eye movement. In other cases, it can be caused by problems with the eye muscles themselves or a tumor in the eye.
In adults, stroke is the most frequent cause of strabismus. It can also be caused later in life by thyroid eye disorder, neurological issues or trauma to the eye.
For some people, strabismus can lead to a couple different complications:
- • Double vision
- • Amblyopia: Also known as lazy eye, this condition may be accompanied by poor depth perception and peripheral vision, and headaches.
The sooner symptoms of strabismus can be identified and treatment can get started, the better the chances of avoiding long term problems. Many cases of adults with crossed eyes developed them because they didn’t take proper care when the disease was forming during childhood.
For cases in children, pediatric ophthalmologists can assist with treatment. There are a few different options a pediatric ophthalmologist might suggest:
- • Glasses: Glasses are often especially useful for cases of farsightedness.
- • Patch: Eye patches can force the child to use the damaged eye and condition it back toward working properly.
The goal is to manage the condition by the age of 8—this is the age where permanent vision loss can begin to set in for most people. For this reason, if you notice even small possible signs of crossed eyes or damaged vision in children under this age, getting them to an ophthalmologist as soon as possible is vital.
For some children and adults, surgery may be a treatment option for strabismus. During the procedure, your surgeon will shorten an eye muscle, with the goal of strengthening it and helping turn the eye in the desired direction. There may also be situations where a surgeon looks to intentionally weaken an eye muscle, to turn an eye away from a specific direction.
If you notice signs of crossed eyes in you or your child, or experience other symptoms of strabismus, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.