Strabismus is a general term referring to ocular misalignment due to extraocular muscle imbalance. In short, the eyes are not straight. Strabismus occurs in approximately 2% of children under 3 years of age and about 3% of children and young adults. The condition affects males and females equally. Strabismus has an inherited pattern, i.e., it is much more likely to occur if one or both parents are affected. However, many cases occur without any family history of the disorder.
Strabismus is important to recognize, primarily because, in childhood, it is often associated with the development of amblyopia, or lazy eye. Amblyopia refers to reduced vision, uncorrectable with glasses or contact lenses, due to failure or incomplete development of the visual cortex of the brain.
Strabismus is not only important from the standpoint of amblyopia, however. It is also important for other functional and cosmetic reasons. Strabismus is associated with reduction of depth perception and, if onset is in adulthood, double vision. Furthermore, strabismus presents a cosmetic concern, especially for school-age children.
Treatments for strabismus include spectacles, prism lenses, and surgery aimed at bringing the eyes into proper alignment. Strabismus surgery is done as an outpatient. The procedure involves repositioning the eye muscles (essentially tightening or loosening the muscles) so that the patient’s eyes assume a more normal position.