Crossed Wandering Eyes
Crossed Wandering Eyes, or Strabismus, is a failure of the two eyes to maintain proper alignment and work together as a team. If you have strabismus, one eye looks directly at the object you are viewing, while the other eye is misaligned inward (esotropia, “crossed eyes” or “cross-eyed”), outward (exotropia or “wall-eyed”), upward (hypertropia) or downward (hypotropia).
Strabismus can be constant or intermittent. The misalignment also might always affect the same eye (unilateral strabismus), or the two eyes may take turns being misaligned (alternating strabismus). To prevent double vision from congenital and early childhood strabismus, the brain ignores the visual input from the misaligned eye, which typically leads to amblyopia or “lazy eye” in that eye. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, approximately 4 percent of the U.S. population has crossed eyes or some other type of strabismus.
What causes strabismus in children?
In young children, the two most common types of strabismus are accommodative esotropia, where the eyes cross due to excessive farsightedness, and infantile esotropia, where children are born with the tendency to cross their eyes. Strabismus in children is less commonly caused by head trauma and diseases that affect the brain or nerves that go to the eye, such as tumors, hydrocephalus (water on the brain), or cerebral palsy.
What are the complications of strabismus in children?
In any childhood strabismus, amblyopia may occur. Often called lazy eye, amblyopia occurs when the brain shuts off the image in one eye long enough that the vision is permanently decreased. In most cases, this condition is easily improved if treated early. (See amblyopia topic page)
What causes strabismus in adults?
Strabismus in adulthood may be simply due to decreased control of a prior tendency for eye wandering that the brain had always controlled previously. Other causes may include head trauma, diseases that affect the nerves (such as multiple sclerosis), long-standing high blood pressure or diabetes, or aneurysms in blood vessels supplying the brain or a tumor. Since some of these rare but potential causes can be quite serious or even life-threatening, a sudden onset of double vision in adulthood should prompt an immediate eye exam.