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Strabismus: What It Is, Its Symptoms, and How to Treat It

Monday, February 16, 2015 @ 10:02 PM
Author: Amit Mathur

Strabismus

Vision problems are one of the common issues that people are facing nowadays. One of these is the ailment of strabismus, and is quite a cause of concern.

What is Strabismus?

Strabismusis a vision problem which is popularly known as walleye, squint, or ‘crossed eyes’. It occurs when both eyes cannot focus on the same point at the same time. One or both eyes may look inwards or outwards, or turn up or down. In most cases, strabismus arises in the early years of childhood. This is known as congenital strabismus, and can therefore be detected and treated early.

This condition arises when the muscles in the eye fail to coordinate and move both eyes in the same way simultaneously. Strabismus is therefore the inability of the eye to perform this normal function for the provision of accurate vision. When this occurs, the pictures that the eyes send to the brain are misaligned and therefore cannot combine to produce a singular image.

Children rarely outgrow strabismus once they have been diagnosed with it. Undetected and untreated, it can cause worsening of vision and impair daily activity. If a child is continuously relying on one eye to see, this can turn into poor vision in that particular eye (also known as lazy eye or amblyopia). Moreover, it will certainly affect a child’s self-esteem. An inability to see properly will not only cause sight issues but will affect his or her appearance. This may lead other children to bully the child. In adults, the condition often manifests itself alongside double vision. This can often be the initial sign of a stroke in a person who did not have strabismus as a child. In both cases, medical assistance should be sought immediately.

How Does Strabismus Arise?

Strabismus that develops in childhood has no known cause, although it has been found to be an inherited trait. Sometimes, the condition may occur when the eyes are trying to rectify any other vision condition such as cataracts or farsightedness. The chances of coming up with strabismus can be increased if a child has Down syndrome, any disease affecting muscles or nerves, premature birth or head injury. In adults, however, strabismus may also develop from eye tumors, brain tumor, vision loss, Graves’ disease, stroke, or various muscle or nerve disorders.

What are the Symptoms of Strabismus?

The common signs of having developed this problem are:

  1. Bumping into things due to limited depth perception.
  2. Eyes that don’t move in unison.
  3. Closing one eye in sunlight or squinting unnecessarily.
  4. Peripheral vision, which crops up upon needing to turn the head or substantially tilting it to view an object.
  5. Eyes that look in different directions.

How Can Strabismus Be Treated?

A pediatric ophthalmologist needs to be referred to for treatment of this condition. Initially, he may suggest non-surgical methods such as the use of optimal glasses. These will ensure that neither eye becomes amblyopiac (lazy). If that tendency exists, then the usage of a patch or similar measures will be undertaken until normal vision is restored. If the misalignment of the eye is due to farsightedness, it can easily be corrected by using eye glasses. In children, vision therapy (including the use of optical devices) will ensure that the lazy eye gets exercised before the age of 8. Moreover, amblyopia needs to be treated in childhood to avoid permanent blindness.

Surgery can be performed to correct strabismus by strengthening or weakening the muscles in one eye that affect movement. This procedure should ideally be performed during childhood by an experienced ophthalmologist.

In adults, surgery can be done using local anesthesia. The surgeon will begin by slitting open the outer layer of the eyeball in order to reach the muscle that has to be altered. Strengthening it would entail removing a small section from one end and re-attaching it at the same site. This will make it shorter and will allow the eye to turn towards that particular side. Weakening would require slackening the eye muscle by moving it back or making a partial cut across it. If any double vision occurs post-surgery, it will go away after a few weeks after the brain has adjusted to the restored sense of sight.

In all, strabismus is a worrying concern that impacts the lives of children and their parents alike. Care should be taken in case any of these symptoms exhibits themselves, and haste should be made to consult specialists before the problem becomes worse.

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