Strabismus is commonly referred to as a “crossed eye” or “wandering eye”. It is a visual condition in which a person is unable to effectively use both eyes simultaneously. In such scenarios the brain gives one eye priority over another, resulting in one eye oriented properly (the priority eye) and the other being misaligned (the strabismic eye). When an eye turns inward it is referred to as esotropia and an outward turn is called exotropia. This eye turn can be situational – turning only when the patient is tired or fatigued — or it may be constant. Strabismus is caused by a lack of coordination between the brain and the muscles of the eyes.
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 prevent 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. It was previously believed that treatment of amblyopia was ineffective after age seven, but new research and clinical testing has proven that strabismus and amblyopia can be successfully treated at any age.
Traditional treatment for these conditions consisted of surgery and full-time patching of the “good eye”. Surgery creates nerve damage and scar tissue, and constant patching of the eye has been found to damage cells of the eye. The above-mentioned research has found therapeutic intervention to be a much less invasive and more complete treatment.
Facts About Vision Surgery vs Therapy
Surgery for strabismus deals only with the physical realignment of muscles of the eyes. It does not address the visual system and its proper functioning in the brain. While the eyes appear straight after surgery, actual visual capabilities are often not affected. Over 80% of patients with strabismus still live with functional use of only one eye even after surgery, meaning their struggles with depth perception and judgment of distance persist. Because of surgery’s inability to address the underlying cause of strabismus the results of the procedure are often temporary and may require future realignment procedures.
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 employed, the visual system learns to better coordinate the eyes. This is crucial as it does treat the root cause of these conditions so that both eyes not only align cosmetically but also function normally without the need for invasive surgery.
Therapy trains the brain and eyes to work together to achieve 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 the visual system through vision therapy. Because surgery can
leave scar tissue that can make therapy more challenging for some patients, it does not inhibit the patient’s ability to achieve long-lasting positive results. These improvements are achievable for adults and children, and help to 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 further discuss your condition 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!