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Eye Health Library / Eye Exam & Diagnoses
Strabismus is a condition in which your eyes are not properly aligned with each other, resulting in double vision or the suppression of the image from the affected eye. For a variety of reasons, one or both of your eyes may turn in, out, up or down.
Coordination of your eyes and their ability to work together as a team develops in your first six months to four years of life. Failure of your eye muscles to work together properly can lead to strabismus. Strabismus can be hereditary, but may also be acquired secondary to an eye injury or disease.
Children under age six are most affected by strabismus, but it usually first appears between birth and 21 months. It is estimated that five per cent of all children have some type or degree of strabismus. Although rare, strabismus can sometimes begin in adulthood. Sudden onset of strabismus may occur as a result of a stroke, tumor or other vascular disease.
A child will not outgrow strabismus without treatment. In fact, the condition may simply become worse without treatment leading to an amblyopic (lazy) eye.
Children with strabismus may initially have double vision. This occurs because both eyes are not focusing on the same object. In an attempt to avoid double vision, the brain will eventually disregard the image from one eye. This is referred to as suppression. In time, the ignored eye will become unable to function normally and will become largely unused. This may result in the development of lazy eye (amblyopia).
Parents may be the first to notice a slight wandering of one or both of a child’s eyes. A comprehensive eye examination by a doctor of optometry is recommended by six months of age or sooner if an eye appears to be misaligned.
Treatment for strabismus can include eyeglasses (single vision or bifocal), prisms, vision therapy and in some cases, surgery. Strabismus can be corrected with excellent results if detected and treated early, which is why intervention by age six months is suggested if eyes are not aligned.