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Learning About Strabismus in Adults

Person with strabismus, with one eye looking straight ahead and other eye looking to the side

What is strabismus?

Strabismus means that both eyes don't look at the same thing at the same time. One eye may look straight ahead while the other eye looks in another direction. It is sometimes called "cross-eye" or "walleye."

It happens when the eye muscles don't work together to move both eyes in the same direction at the same time. This sends two different images to the brain.

What causes it?

Sometimes adults have strabismus from childhood. Childhood strabismus often has no known cause. But it tends to run in families.

Adults may develop strabismus from eye or blood vessel damage. Other causes include loss of vision, a tumour in the eye or brain, Graves' disease, stroke, and diabetes. Some muscle and nerve disorders can also cause it.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms are:

  • Blurred or double vision.
  • Problems with seeing out of the side of your eyes (peripheral vision).
  • Problems with seeing how far things are away from you (depth perception).
  • Seeing two different images, one on top of the other (visual confusion).
  • Lazy eye (amblyopia).
  • Eyes that don't move together.
  • Squinting or closing one eye.

How is it treated?

The most common treatments are:

  • Glasses. They can sometimes correct mild strabismus. Some glasses have prisms in them that may help with some symptoms.
  • A temporary eye patch that you wear over the stronger eye. You may wear one all the time. Or you may wear it only during certain times, such as when you are reading. Some patches cover the whole eye. Others are put on your glasses and cover only part of an eye.
  • Surgery on the eye muscles to try to align the eyes better. It may take more than one surgery. You may still need to wear glasses.
  • A shot of medicine into the eye muscles.
  • Eye exercises.

You may need more than one treatment. Some people don't need treatment.

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