Often referred to as “crossed eyes” or “wandering eyes”, strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes horizontally (inwards or outwards), vertically (upwards or downwards), or a combination of both.
Strabismus usually presents in infants at birth or during early childhood, but may also result from brain injuries, eye injuries, thyroid disorders, diabetes, and other serious health conditions during adulthood.
Those with strabismus may experience double vision, loss of depth perception, and uncoordinated eye movements. The secondary effects of these symptoms also include dizziness and headaches. Strabismus can also cause significant psychological effects secondary to teasing during childhood and societal judgment in adult life.
Strabismus surgery involves the manipulation of the muscles surrounding one or both of the eyeballs. All the work is performed on the front surface of the eye only and at no point is the eye ever disturbed from the eye socket. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia and is usually completed between 20-40 minutes. There is redness present and mild soreness afterwards but recovery is rapid as the eyeball itself is not entered and the surface layer of the eye heals much quicker than skin.
Successful surgery can reverse debilitating double vision and can also bring about drastic improvements in one’s self esteem and self-image. In children, surgery also helps with stereovision and vision development.
Please note that strabismus should not be confused with amblyopia or “lazy eye”. Amblyopia is vision impairment secondary to neurological under-development at the level of the brain. It occurs under the age of six when a weaker eye becomes ignored by the brain. Treatment of amblyopia is predominantly treated with patching or eye drops which cause blurring in the stronger eye, which forces the brain to recognize the weaker eye. Strabismus surgery can also be adjunctive treatment to help the brain recognize visual input from the weaker eye. Treatment of amblyopia must be performed under the age of 6-7 years old or else vision loss will be permanent. This emphasizes the need for amblyopia to be recognized early in children. Often times this needs to be determined by professionals as both eyes can still appear straight even though one eye is losing vision due to being out of focus.