Strabismus is a condition in which both eyes do not line up along the same viewing plane, meaning that while one eye may be locked on to an object, the other eye is looking at a different point of reference around the object. This is caused when the muscles that control each eye do not communicate in the same way with the brain, or communicate with each other, causing two images of two different areas of vision to be sent to the brain. This can easily confuse the brain, and, if the condition is not treated, can lead to vision loss in the affected eye as the brain filters out the “incorrect” image from the crossed eye. If left untreated, strabismus leads to a condition known as amblyopia.
Symptoms of Strabismus
Very common early symptoms of strabismus are vision related and may present as:
- Double vision
- Issues with depth perception
- Visibly crossed eyes
- Mild disorientation can be a more physiological sign of vision issues, especially if “seeing double”
More serious symptoms, which emerge if the impairment is not treated, can be reduced vision in one eye, uncoordinated eye movements and/or loss of muscle control over one eye.
Treatment of Strabismus
If caught early enough, treatment of strabismus may be as simple as corrective eyewear and a course of vision therapy designed to strengthen the communication and coordination between both eyes. This course can include tracking objects with one eye closed and the other open, the temporary wearing of an eye patch to help the inferior eye strengthen muscle coordination, and muscle exercises to train the muscles of the eye and face to help turn the inferior eye the correct amount commanded by the brain.
For more moderate cases, longer term use of an eye patch over the dominant eye can force the inferior eye to “learn” how to see properly and communicate effectively again. This eye patch can last extended periods of time, depending on the severity of vision impairment. In almost all cases, some form of vision correction such as contact lenses or eyeglasses are also issued.
In the rarest and most serious of cases, specialist surgery to realign the eyes may be needed, as well as vision therapy and muscle training after surgery to ensure that recovery is as successful as possible. Complications may arise if vision loss caused the strabismus to form in the first place, as the vision loss needs to be addressed first before any surgery can be successful.