Strabismus is commonly referred to as a “crossed eye” or “wandering eye”. It is a visual condition in which a person is unable to use both eyes simultaneously. The brain has to choose one eye over the other. The eye may turn all the time, or it may only turn when the person is tired. An inward eye turn is called esotropia; an outward turn is called exotropia. Strabismus is caused by faulty coordination between the brain and the eye muscles.
When the eyes do not point at the same object at the same time, the result would normally be double vision. However, people with strabismus have learned to suppress, or “turn off” the misaligned eye in their brains, to protect themselves from seeing double. They only use the central vision out of one eye at a time. Therefore, a person with strabismus has poor depth perception and compromised distance judgment, and often struggle with poor balance and coordination.
If left untreated, the eye that turns may lose the ability to see clearly altogether. This condition is known as amblyopia, or “lazy eye”.
Whether the eye turn is constant or occasional, strabismus always requires treatment. It will not go away on its own, and children will not outgrow it
Treatment of Strabismus and Amblyopia
The Treatments for strabismus and amblyopia are quite similar. While historically it was felt that nothing could be done about amblyopia after the age of seven, new research and clinical experience have shown that strabismus and amblyopia can be treated successfully at any age. The traditional treatment used to be surgery and patching the “good eye” full time.
However, surgery creates nerve damage and scar tissue, and current research has found constant patching can damage cells in the eye. Newer treatment methods utilize minimal patching – 2 hours instead of all day, combined with appropriate activities that stimulate visual development and train the brain how to use both eyes together.
Facts About Vision Therapy vs Surgery
Vision therapy is a progressive, non-surgical method of training the eyes and brain to work together. Therapy is a series of exercises and treatment procedures done with special instruments, lenses, filters, and prisms. When these techniques are combined with minimal patching, the visual system learns new eye-coordination skills. The final result is that both eyes learn to work together so that they are cosmetically straight and functioning normally – without invasive surgery.
Surgery for strabismus deals only with muscles to physically realign the eyes. It is not related to the visual functions that take place in the brain. While the eyes appear straight after surgery, actual vision is often not affected. Over 80% of cross-eyed patients still live in a one-eyes world after surgery, without depth and distance judgment. And because the underlying cause of strabismus is not addressed, the cosmetic results of surgery are often not permanent. Over time, the eye begins to turn again, and repeated operations are often required.
While the main benefit of surgery is primarily cosmetic, vision therapy can correct both the child’s appearance and visual function. Therapy trains the brain and eyes to work together for normal binocular (two-eyed) vision, and once the brain learns to use the eyes together, the eyes remain straight.
What if we’ve already had surgery?
It is never too late to improve visual problems through vision therapy. While scar tissue can make therapy more difficult for some patients, most can achieve permanent positive results, whether they are children or adults. And correcting debilitating vision problems not only improves visual function, but it can also improve self-esteem, academics, and athletic performance.
What is the next step?
If your doctor is recommending that you set up an appointment as South Tulsa Vision Development Center to discuss treatment options to correct the turned or lazy eyes, know that we are a specialized optometric clinic dedicated solely to this type of treatment.
The next step is to schedule an evaluation at our office. Please call 949-4002 to set up an appointment. We’ll be happy to discuss your condition with you further and answer any questions you have. Or, if you prefer, you can ask your doctor’s office to fax us a referral form with your information, and we will be happy to call you directly to set up the evaluation.
We are looking forward to meeting you!