What Is Strabismus?

Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes are directed toward different points simultaneously, occurring either constantly or intermittently. Strabismus occurs when eye muscles are not working together properly; one or more of the six ocular (eye) muscles may be ineffective, out of place, too short, or too long. An eye may be turned inward toward the nose (known as esotropia), turned outward (known as exotropia), turned upward (known as hypertropia), or turned downward (known as hypotropia).

Strabismus is most commonly an inherited condition but may also be caused by disease or injury.

How Is It Diagnosed?

If a child’s eyes are misaligned after a child reaches six months of age, a parent or pediatrician should request an eye exam from a pediatric ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist can provide a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Additionally, if a young child has one or more relatives who have had strabismus, an early eye exam is prudent. The earlier a child is diagnosed, the more treatable the condition. Generally, strabismus is not treatable after the child reaches five years of age.

Are There Treatments for Strabismus?

If diagnosed early, strabismus can usually be corrected. The condition may be treated with corrective eyeglasses, eye muscle exercises, medication, surgery, or a combination of these approaches. Young children with this condition may need to wear an eye patch over their stronger eye to force their weaker eye to function correctly. Children whose strabismus is not corrected may develop permanent vision loss in the turned eye, known as amblyopia.

How Would You Describe the Eyesight of One with Strabismus and How Will My Child Function with It?

Strabismus alone has not yet permanently reduced vision (known as “visual acuity”) or depth perception; your child’s brain will compensate for the misaligned vision. In time, however, the brain will suppress the information received from the turned eye. At this point, the visual impairment will be termed “amblyopia,” which is reduced visual acuity in the turned eye.

To learn if your child has reduced visual acuity and poor or lacking depth perception, your child’s teacher of students with visual impairments should perform a functional vision assessment. If so, a learning media assessment will be conducted to determine which senses your child primarily uses to get information from the environment. These assessments, along with an orientation and mobility assessment conducted by a mobility specialist, will give the educational team information needed to make specific recommendations for your child to best access learning material and his or her environment.

Resources for Families of Children with Strabismus