Strabismus: What is it?

Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes do not properly align with each other when looking at an object.  The condition may be present occasionally or constantly. Strabismus is commonly known as ‘turned’, ‘lazy’ or ‘crossed’ eye.

Strabismus can be categorised by the direction of the turned or misaligned eye:

  • Inward turning (esotropia)
  • Outward turning (exotropia)
  • Upward turning (hypertropia)
  • Downward turning (hypotropia)

Some believe that children will outgrow strabismus or that it will get better on its own. However, it can get worse if it is not treated.

If the eyes are not properly aligned, the following may result:

  • Lazy eye (amblyopia) or permanent poor vision in the turned eye. When the eyes are looking in different directions, the brain receives two images. To avoid double vision, the brain may ignore the image from the turned eye, resulting in poor vision development in that eye.
  • Blurry vision which can affect performance in school and at work.
  • Eye Strain
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Poor 3-Dimensional (3-D) vision
  • Low self-esteem (from embarrassment about one’s appearance)

Causes of Strabismus:

Each eye has six muscles attached to its white outer layer (sclera), Contraction and relation of these muscles control eye movements in all directions. In most cases it is due to a failure of the visual areas of the brain to control eye alignment. Strabismus often runs in families. It can also be caused by disease or injury.


Treatment of strabismus depends on the type of strabismus and the underlying cause. This may include the use of glasses, occlusion therapy (patching), exercises and possibly surgery. Strabismus occurs in about 2% of children.

Strabismus treatment is usually co-managed by an Orthoptist and an Ophthalmologist.


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