Strabismus: Causes and Treatments

Closeup of eyes from front showing esotropia and exotropia.When your child has strabismus, his or her eyes don’t line up (align) in the same direction. One eye may turn in, out, up, or down while the other looks straight ahead. When an eye turns in, the child has esotropia ("cross-eyed"). When the eye turns out, the child has exotropia ("wall-eyed"). When the eyes aren`t aligned, pictures sent to the brain are too different to be blended into one image. If strabismus isn`t treated, the brain may start ignoring the eye that turns in a different direction. This can lead to a vision problem called amblyopia.

What causes strabismus?

Strabismus has 2 main causes:

  • Focusing problems, such as being very farsighted, that cause an eye to turn in when trying to focus.

  • Eye muscles that can't keep the eyes aligned.

Treatments for strabismus

Strabismus is treated by correcting the problem that's making your child's eyes turn. This can align the eyes and may help your child see more clearly. Treating strabismus helps prevent other problems from occurring. If your child also has amblyopia, treatment for that will be needed as well.

Treatments for strabismus may include:

  • Glasses. These may correct focusing problems so your child can see more clearly. Glasses can also keep the eyes aligned by helping a very farsighted eye to focus without turning in. Some children prefer contact lenses to glasses. Your child's eye doctor can tell you if this is an option.

  • Surgery. This is needed in some cases to align the eyes.

The goals of strabismus treatment are to:

  • Correct the problem that's causing the eyes to turn out of alignment

  • Align the eyes

  • Improve sight in both eyes as much as possible

  • Make the eyes work together