Strabismus is a condition in which your child’s eyes point in different directions. Usually one eye is pointed straight ahead and the other is pointed in a different direction.
Some common terms for strabismus are "cross eyed," which means that one or both eyes turn toward your child’s nose or "wall eyed," which means one or both eyes turn out toward your child’s ears.
There are 6 muscles that work together to move your child’s eye. Strabismus can happen when those muscles do not work together. This may be caused by a problem with the muscles, nerves, or a problem in your child’s brain. Most people with strabismus are born with it and it tends to run in families. Strabismus may also be caused by:
When your child’s eyes do not work together to look at an object, your child’s brain pays attention to the image from one eye and ignores the image from the other eye. Over time your child may not be able to see as well out of one eye.
Sometimes the cause of strabismus is unknown.
Symptoms may happen all the time, or only when your child is tired or sick. Symptoms may include:
For an infant, your provider may hold a small light in front of your baby's eyes to check if the reflection of this light is properly centered in each eye. In another test, your provider covers one of your child's eyes and then the other to see if your child’s eyes shift abnormally when focusing on a near or distant object.
Your provider will test your child’s vision and ability to follow objects with each eye. In older children, the provider will test if your child’s eyes can work well together by checking for three-dimensional vision. He or she will also examine your child’s eyes for any signs of disease.
Children who have strabismus need to be treated as soon as possible so that they can develop normal vision. Treatment that begins after the age of 6 years may improve a child's appearance but does not always help vision problems.
Treatment may include:
Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Ask your healthcare provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.