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By Osveen Funwi

A brief and essential overview of strabismus

Millions of people in America have strabismus. Learn how to recognize and treat it before it becomes serious.

What is strabismus?

Strabismus (lazy eye) is a condition in which both eyes do not point in the same direction. Most cases occur in children below three years old, but it can also occur in adults. It arises because of many different factors:

  • A family member may have it and pass it on genetically.
  • A weakened muscle may cause it. Each eye has six muscles: two control left and right movement, and four up and down. If the person has farsightedness (hyperopia) there will be an excess amount of strain on those muscles when he or she tries to see. This problem will deteriorate the connection to the brain – and by extension, the ability to control the eye.
  • Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, brain tumors and strokes also increase the risk of strabismus. This is because they weaken muscles or the ability to control them.

Types of strabismus

  • Infantile esotropia: This is when the child cannot control either eye, so they both point inward.
  • Accommodative esotropia: This occurs in children over the age of two. It is a direct effect of farsightedness. When the person strains to see nearby objects, the eyes push inward. Over time, this may cause accommodative esotropia.
  • Exotropia: This is when the eyes point outward, and it comes from looking too far out. This is unusual and generally only occurs when a person is ill, tired or daydreaming.
  • Hypertropia: This occurs when the direction the eye is pointed is above the normal height.
  • Hypotropia: This occurs when the direction the eye is pointed is below the normal height.
  • Sixth nerve palsy: With this condition, the sixth cranial nerve becomes damaged. The muscles become hard to move and therefore the eyes do, to. People with sixth nerve palsy cannot move their eyes too far outward.
  • Others: Strabismus can be defined by its frequency (intermittent or constant), whether it is in one or two eyes (unilateral or bilateral) and whether it stays in one eye or switches from one to the other (alternating). Other special conditions exist such as Brown syndrome and Duane syndrome.

Symptoms of strabismus

  • Amblyopia, the reduction of vision or blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain
  • Generally, eyes that do not look the same way

How to treat strabismus

If you suspect that you may have a type of strabismus, meet with a doctor to have your eyes checked. It may be pseudostrabismus, which is when the eyes seem to look in different directions but only because of extra skin under the eyes or a wide nose. If you are diagnosed with clinical strabismus, there are many ways to treat it.

  • Glasses or Contacts: Some need only one of these simple remedies.
  • Vision Therapy: Do some exercises to strengthen your ability to control your eyes, either in the doctor's office or at home, in the way which your doctor advised you.
  • Prism Lenses: These reflect light such that the eye(s) does not have to turn again.
  • Surgery: With surgery, the doctor strengthens or weakens a muscle to achieve correct vision. It is a simple surgery that does not require you to stay overnight. After a few days, you can resume your normal activity.

If you do not have it treated swiftly, you or your child may have strabismus and the problems associated with it forever. So learn from this, and apply your knowledge in order to ensure good eyesight for you and those you care about.

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