Strabismus is the correct medical term for incorrect alignment of the eyes. An eye affected by strabismus may turn outward, inward, upward or downward; strabismus in general means that the eyes do not point in the same direction while looking at something such as an object. This may occur in one or both eyes, or may alternate from eye to eye. The brain may ignore the image from the eye affected by strabismus (this leads to impaired vision called amblyopia or “lazy eye”). In some cases the brain will see two images as a result of strabismus (double vision).
The actual cause of strabismus is still not fully understood, but often runs in families and can also be caused by disease or injury. However in most cases it is due to a failure of the visual areas of the brain to control the eye alignment. Although less commonly it may be a condition affecting the actual eye muscles.
Treating strabismus early provides the best chance for a successful outcome. In young children prompt correction is vital for long-term results; children suffering from strabismus should be treated before they are 6 years old, as children will never “grow out” of strabismus.
Although not every patient suffering from strabismus will require surgery (other treatment options may be available, you need to discuss this with your ophthalmologist), significant and persistent cases will almost always require surgery.
The surgical procedure involves the ophthalmologist straightening out one or both eyes by operating on the muscles that control the eyes movement. An incision is first made in the membrane covering the eye (conjunctiva) to expose the front end of the eye muscle; the muscle is then repositioned by sewing it further back on the eyeball from where it was originally attached. This then frees up movement on that side of the eye. The muscle that pulls the eye in the opposite direction can be tightened to correct strabismus; this is carried out by removing a small piece of the muscle and then reattaching it to its original position.
Before making the decision whether to have strabismus surgery it is important to consult with your ophthalmologist to make sure you understand all of the risks, limitations and benefits of the surgery. If you are considering strabismus surgery or have a child suffering from strabismus then please contact our team today on (02) 9868 2333.