Multiple patient faces and eyes of all ages, genders, and ethnicities
Multiple patient faces and eyes of all ages, genders, and ethnicities

Crossed Eyes (Strabismus)

Crossed eyes (strabismus) is a common eye condition among children. It occurs when a person’s eyes are not able to align on the same point at the same time and appear to be misaligned or pointed in different directions. The misalignment can shift from one eye to the other. For both eyes to align and focus on a single point, all muscles in both eyes must work together. Most strabismus is not associated with other medical problems.

Strabismus affects vision, as both eyes must aim at the same point together in order to see properly. A condition called amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” can develop when a person's eyes are not aligned. Speak to your eye doctor and pediatrician if you notice any of the associated signs.

Crossed eyes develop most often in babies, and it is easier to correct when caught early. This is often not a condition babies or children simply outgrow, so children with eyes that seem to be misaligned should be examined and treated if necessary.

Types of Strabismus:

  • Infantile esotropia is when an infant or young child has eyes that cross inward (toward the nose)
  • Accommodative esotropia, the most common type of strabismus in children two years of age and older, is when one eye may turn inward (toward the nose) when focusing on close-up or far-away objects
  • Exotropia is when one eye turns outward (away from the nose) when focusing on something far away

Signs of Crossed Eyes

The most obvious sign of crossed eyes is when the eyes appear to be pointed in different directions. There are, however, more signs of crossed eyes that can most often be observed in children:

  • Eyes that do not move together
  • Unsymmetrical points of reflection in each eye
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Inability to gauge depth
  • Squinting with only one eye

If you think your child might have strabismus, make an appointment for a complete eye exam.

Treatment for Crossed Eyes

In order to improve vision, the weakened muscles in the affected eye or eyes must be put to work. Several treatments may be used alone or in combination, depending on the type, severity and cause of strabismus as well as the age of your child. Treatments include:

  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses may help people who have crossed eyes due to an uncorrected farsightedness
  • Special eyeglasses and/or a clear, wedge-shaped prism that bends (refracts) light to help focus and straighten the eyes
  • Patching might be recommended to help strengthen the misaligned eye (that is weaker than the other eye)
  • Blurring medication eye drops may be used in the stronger (good) eye to temporarily blur the vision and force use of the weaker eye, helping to strengthen it over time
  • Eye muscle exercises are sometimes recommended in order to help both eyes focus inward
  • Surgery is recommended if glasses, prisms, patching or eye exercises do not help

Strabismus surgery is performed to straighten and realign muscles in the eyes. This procedure is often done in an outpatient surgery center with the use of general anesthesia. As with any surgery, there are risks that, though rare, can be serious. Surgery for strabismus has a high success rate and can be discussed in depth with your eye doctor.

Additional Resources:
Visit Prevent Blindness Americalink-out icon to learn about The Eye Patch Club.