Strabismus or ‘crossed eyes’ is a condition where the two eyes do not face the same direction. It is usually accompanied by uncoordinated eye movements along with a lack of depth perception.
The eyes are moved by six different muscles that work in tandem to make both the eyes focus on one object at a time. In the case of people suffering from this condition, these muscles do not work in coordination therefore both the eyes move in opposite directions.
When this happens the brain receives two different images and tends to get confused. To acclimatize to this, the brain usually ignores signals from the weaker eye. This can lead to very weak eyesight in that eye. This is known as amblyopia, commonly called ‘lazy eye’. (Read: Eye problems in children)
In most children strabismus sets in shortly after birth. It is not that the muscles are weak but that there is a mismatch in the control of the muscles. In children who have this condition shortly after birth it is classified as congenital strabismus.
Moreover, children with congenital conditions such as cerebral palsy, Apert’s syndrome (a congenital deformity of the skull, hands and feet), retinopathy of prematurity or have a traumatic brain injury at birth do tend to suffer from strabismus.
Children are not the only ones who can suffer from this condition, adults too can develop it. People with conditions like botulism, diabetes (where the person may suffer from a condition known as paralytic strabismus), Gullian-Barre syndrome, injury to the eye, stroke, those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury or have a family history of strabismus can also suffer from it.
The doctor will first do a physical examination followed by several tests to check for visual acuity, retinal exam (to check for the proper working of the retina), corneal light reflex test (where the proper working of the cornea is tested) and a cover/uncover test (where the visual acuity of each eye is tested by covering the other eye).
If the patient has a lazy eye, then the aim of the treatment is aimed at first reversing that. The doctor will most likely prescribe glasses or a patch. The patch is placed on the stronger eye. This forces the weaker eye to increase its muscle strength.
If all else fails a physician will depend on surgery to strengthen the muscles. Recently the use of BOTOX has been used to treat the condition. The earlier the condition is treated the faster and better the recovery.
It is essential to know that surgery will only cure strabismus and cannot improve one’s vision. So the patient will have to wear glasses after the surgery. (Read: Save your eyesight with these tests)