What is strabismus? It is a form of convergence insufficiency involving the eyes. In a nutshell, strabismus is cross-eyes (esotropia). The eyes point in different directions, whether up, down, out, or in, and may be consistent or random. One eye may look to the side while the other eye looks straight, or they could point to each other. Each time it happens, the direction may be different.
Strabismus affects roughly two to four percent of children. It is a problem that typically does not resolve on its own. How do you correct it? It depends on what causes the eyes to cross or the type of eye movement you experience.
Types of Strabismus
During accommodative esotropia, the eyes work extra hard to focus on an object that is too close. If it happens often, it can lead to the crossing of the eyes. Most patients who struggle with accommodative esotropia are far-sighters, meaning they can’t see closeup.
If one of your eyes remains focused on a particular object while the other eye looks outward, you may be experiencing intermittent exotropia. It can affect people of any age. Some patients exhibit symptoms while others don’t.
Causes of Strabismus
Some causes of Strabismus are unknown. Heredity plays a significant role in the development of strabismus. Some children are born with it. If you have one child with strabismus, your other children will likely have it too. Congenital defects, such as Down syndrome, hydrocephalus, or neurological disorders, may be contributing factors.
Sustaining a head injury as a child could trigger it. Damage to the orbital region or nerves can lead to the development of strabismus. Thyroid disorders, namely thyroid eye disease (TED), can affect the functioning of the eyes. In some cases, crossed eyes can occur later in life.
Symptoms of Strabismus
- The eyes wander in an outward or inward direction
- The child tilts his head or squints to see something more clearly
- The presence of red light reflection is visible in one eye
- The child may appear to have poor depth perception and stumble often.
Glasses or contact lenses are typically an initial form of treatment. Corrective lenses decrease the workload of the eyes so they can relax and learn to straighten up. Prism lenses are the most common form of corrective eyewear. The lens on the affected side is thicker to let in less light and reduce the movement of the faulty eye.
Eye patches are effective on patients who experience lazy eyes along with the strabismus. The purpose of the patch is to divert attention from the normal eye and allow the brain to receive information through the affected one. The brain teaches the eye muscles how to re-align properly.
Vision Therapy (VT)
Other treatments may not be appropriate for you or your child. Glasses or eye patches may be embarrassing to a child and get in the way of regular activities. The most effective way to correct strabismus is through Vision therapy (VT).
Neuroplasticity stimulates the brain’s neurons by forming new channels around the injured area and restoring function. Through a variety of techniques, the patient learns to control eye movement and focus. VT does not conclude in the office. You will have to do some exercises at home between sessions.
Effects of Vision Therapy
Visual therapy works if the patient is willing to cooperate with the therapist and the activities. Many optometrists find that adults respond better to vision therapy than children because they are more motivated to follow instructions and do the homework. The National Eye Institute (NIE) revealed positive results in about 75% of patients who participated in visual therapy in the office.