Each eye has six muscles that control the movement of the eyeball and keep the two eyes aligned. When one or more of the muscles are not working properly, the eyes go out of alignment. This condition is known as strabismus.
Strabismus can result from an overactive or underactive muscle or a problem in the nervous system. Any new onset of strabismus should be checked by a physician as soon as possible, because it could indicate a serious neurological problem.
Apart from obviously crossed eyes, symptoms of strabismus can include squinting and tilting the head. If the misalignment is recent, the patient may see double. However, the brain can begin to "ignore" the signal from the turned eye, resulting in amblyopia (lazy eye). This is a particular danger with young children.
Strabismus rarely gets better on its own or through eye exercise therapy. In some instances glasses may help correct strabismus. Many cases require surgery to reposition the muscles. Strabismus surgery is usually an outpatient procedure performed under a general anesthetic. Recovery can take from several days to a few weeks.
At the Eye Institute, strabismus is treated by specialists in our Adult Strabismus and Pediatric Ophthalmology unit (though the condition can affect anyone at any age, 90% of strabismus patients are children). In addition, specialists in Neuro-Ophthalmology and Oculoplastic Surgery are available to address nerve system and muscular issues.