Strabismus is a visual condition where the two eyes are out of alignment and point in different directions. It’s often referred to as cross-eyed or an eye turn. An eye can turn in (esotropia), out (exotropia), up (hypertropia), or down (hypotropia). The eye turn may be constant or just at certain times.
A common misconception is that strabismus is caused by a “weak” eye muscle when that is almost never the case. The brain controls the eyes, and in the case of a strabismus, the brain did not acquire the neuromuscular coordination to efficiently use the two eyes together as a team.
Nearly 50% of those with strabismus have Amblyopia, as known as “lazy eye.” Amblyopia is a lack of visual development in an eye that results from the two eyes not working together as a team (poor binocular vision) or a large amount of nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Occasionally glasses alone can treat certain types of strabismus. Patching is an outdated method for treating strabismus and amblyopia and based on current research should not be prescribed as the treatment of choice. Research is now telling us the improvements in eyesight diminish over time, in addition to the psychosocial and emotional impact that stems from wearing a patch. More often than not, Optometric Vision Therapy will be needed to train the brain’s ability to use the two eyes together as a team.
Yes! And it doesn’t require surgery. Surgery-free strabismus treatment takes into account the fact that the BRAIN controls and directs eye movements. Eye muscle surgery is exactly that, surgery to cut the eye muscles and place them in a position that is cosmetically straight. Eye muscle surgery is NOT brain surgery and so often times it merely provides a cosmetic result and no improvement in functioning binocular vision and depth perception. If the brain is not prepared to control and keep the eyes straight, the eyes will ‘go back’ or deviate after the surgery.
Vision Therapy works on a neurophysiology level to help rehabilitate the brain’s ability to control eye movements and is medically proven. If a child has a constant eye turn at an early age, eye muscle surgery may be considered in those circumstances. But, if the eye turn is not constant, do not be rushed into surgery by the surgeon. Contrary to the scare tactics used by surgeons, your child will not go blind if he/she doesn’t have the surgery right away, so please find a developmental/functional optometrist who will consider Vision Therapy and not merely surgery to pull the eyes into cosmetic alignment.
Studies show Vision Therapy for strabismus is effective at any age, although more favorable results are seen when the problem is detected early.
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