Strabismus is when one or more of the six muscles that control the eye are not working properly causing the eyes go out of alignment.

What Is Strabismus

Strabismus is defined as misalignment of the eyes. It is commonly called wandering eye, crossed eyes or lazy eye. 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.

Signs and Symptoms of Strabismus

Strabismus in adults is often the result of progressive, untreated or unsuccessfully treated strabismus from childhood. There are also many adults who develop wandering eye as the result of an injury or disease. 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.

Treatment Options for Strabismus

Advances in the management of misaligned eyes now provide benefits to most adults as well as children. Treating adults with strabismus can eliminate double vision, improve depth perception, and expand the field of vision. Strabismus rarely gets better on its own or through eye exercise therapy. In some instances, glasses, prisms, medications may help correct strabismus while other cases may be best left untreated. Many patients report improvement in self-esteem, reading, and driving.

Strabismus Alignment Surgery

Many cases require surgery to reposition the muscles. Surgery is usually an outpatient procedure performed under a general anesthetic. Recovery can take from several days to a few weeks. The best way to determine whether straightening of the eyes is possible and appropriate is to undergo an examination by an ophthalmologist who is experienced in treating adults with wandering eye.

Strabismus Specialists

Our team of experts includes orthoptists who provide strabismus evaluations and guide non-surgical therapy for certain eye muscle conditions. Orthoptists are board-certified health providers with the clinical skill set and expertise to evaluate and diagnose disorders of binocular vision, ocular motility and neuromuscular anomalies of the eyes. Orthoptists are also qualified to design and manage a program of non-surgical treatment of these disorders, when appropriate, under the indirect supervision of an ophthalmologist.

Find a Certified Orthoptist

In addition, our team includes specialists in Neuro-Ophthalmology and Oculoplastic Surgery are available to address nerve system and muscular issues.

Pediatric Ophthalmology

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). 

Pediatric ophthalmology services at the Eye Institute for eye problems in infants and children such as cataracts, glaucoma, retinal disease, and oculoplastic conditions (droopy eyelid, orbital problems) are provided by collaboration between pediatric ophthalmologists at Children’s Wisconsin and specialists at the Eye Institute.