What Is Adult Strabismus?
It takes a team of 12—six muscles in each eye—to keep the eyes lined up and focusing together. When those muscles don’t work as a team, the result is strabismus (crossed eyes). A person with strabismus is seeing two different things at the same time, which often causes double vision. In kids, the problem is particularly worrisome because the brain will often shut down the vision in one eye to prevent double vision. This can lead to amblyopia, or “lazy eye”. Occasionally, the opposite happens and severe vision loss can lead to strabismus. Adult strabismus can be leftover from childhood or can be a new problem. Regardless, adult strabismus can both impair vision and seriously damage self-esteem.
Strabismus is common in children and is often congenital. Adults can develop the condition for many other reasons, including:
- Vision loss from eye disease or injury
- Health issues, including diabetes, Graves’ disease and Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Eye injury
- Traumatic brain injury
The symptoms of strabismus can be constant or can come and go from one day to the other. They include:
- Double vision — Rather than seeing a single image, double images of the same object are seen.
- Eyes out of alignment — Eyes don’t look in the same direction or may move independently rather than together.
- Lack of depth perception — It is impossible or difficult to determine an object’s relative distance from something else.
- Loss of vision — Vision is either partially or completely lost.
Depending on its severity, adult strabismus is treatable through surgical or nonsurgical means, or a combination of both. Treatment options include:
- Prismatic glasses — Glasses can improve double vision and but work best when the amount of strabismus is constant and when looking straight ahead. They are not always adequate as a standalone treatment.
- Eye alignment surgery — Surgery involves moving an eye muscle in order pull the eye in a direction to fix the double vision. This outpatient procedure has a high success rate and an extremely low risk of serious complications.
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