Strabismus is an eye disorder in which the eye muscles fail to keep the eyes aligned. Instead of focusing on a single object, each eye will send the brain a different picture. Eventually, the brain will learn to disregard the weaker of the two eyes. This can lead to amblyopia (“lazy eye”) or other disorders that can be more serious and more difficult to treat. However, prompt treatment of strabismus is often very effective, in both children and adults.
The first step of treating strabismus is to get an eye exam. This will allow your ophthalmologist to determine how well each eye can see (visual acuity) and prescribe appropriate corrective lenses. And in some cases, a pair of glasses or contacts is all you need, because it eliminates excesses straining and makes it easier to focus. Glasses are generally more effective for esotropia (when the eye turns in, toward the nose) than they are for exotropia (when the eye turns out, towards the temple).
If amblyopia has developed before corrective lenses are received, it will need to be treated as well. Sometimes this can be done by putting a patch or other covering over the stronger eye. In this way, the brain is forced to rely on the weaker eye for sight, thus making it stronger.
If normal corrective lenses are ineffective, there are a few other options that can be attempted before jumping to surgery. Lenses with prism power change the way light goes through the lens of the eye itself, making it easier by eliminating some of the movement required. This is especially helpful if you have double vision (diplopia) because of exotropic strabismus. Two triangular shaped lenses are included in the lens prescription, with either the points or the bottom of the triangles together, depending upon what your eye needs. Although largely invisible, your brain notices the differences and “sees” more clearly.
Other options for correcting strabismus include vision therapy, which is kind of like physical therapy for your eyeballs. Your eye doctor will create a specific regimen of exercises and activities for you to work through in an attempt to strengthen intraocular muscles, improve your eyes ability to move in tandem, and help your brain work with better with your eyes. As the American Optometric Association states, vision therapy can improve “eye movement, eye focusing and eye teaming and reinforce the eye-brain connection. ”
In some instances, eye muscle surgery is necessary to treat strabismus. There are six intra-ocular muscles that allow the eye to look left, right, up, and down. They may need to be stronger or weaker, shortened or elongated, or moved a little bit for the eyes to work together. This is done through a slight incision in the tissue of the eye covering those muscles. The intra-ocular muscles are then detached and reattached according to the problem with the eye’s movement.
It is important to note that even with surgery, corrective lenses and vision therapy are still necessary, not only to fix the issue in the first place, but to prevent it from returning. Talk to your eye doctor about the best treatment options for you.