Strabismus is a failure of binocular vision, in which a child or adult is unable to properly team and align their eyes together. As a result, an eye will appear to wander out of alignment. The condition can occur at birth or develop later on in childhood. Office based vision therapy programs offer the highest cure rates for strabismus compared to eye surgery, glasses alone or patching without therapy. The earlier the patient receives vision therapy the better; however, our office successfully treats patients well into adulthood.
There are many causes of strabismus and a thorough evaluation by a developmental optometrist should be done as soon as it is noticed. We will not take the chance that the child will outgrow the problem. Delaying the full diagnosis and not starting treatment will be detrimental to the child. The myth that children will grow out of this is false.
Generally, the cause of strabismus is the inability of the child to use both eyes together, causing the child to lose their depth perception. At this point, the child will either experience double vision or shut off the weaker eye, called suppression. Rarely is it caused by a short or weak muscle. Many times it is accompanied with amblyopia or farsightedness and therefore the first step is a glasses prescription. Modern technology and evidence has shown vision therapy can correct strabismus and improve binocular function by safe and natural means.
Vision therapy is highly recommended before other drastic measures such as patching or eye muscle surgery is considered. Always try vision therapy first. Eye muscle surgery does not cure strabismus but makes the eyes look straighter. However, even though the eyes appear to be straight after surgery, the brain still doesn’t know how to properly team the eyes together, binocularly. As a result, the brain will continue to suppress vision out of one eye, which leads to poor depth perception and stereo blindness. Depth perception and eye coordination are only restored by doing vision therapy, not eye muscle surgery. Patching and eye muscle surgery do not teach the child depth perception and eye coordination. This can only be accomplished by an active, office based vision therapy program. The goal of any treatment should be to improve function, not just a cosmetic fix.
Depth perception is the ability to use both eyes together to judge distances. This is important in a young child’s safety and later on in physical activities and sports. Signs of depth perception problems are clumsiness, tripping and falling, and difficulty catching an object. They will have more fear when riding a bike or climbing simple heights. Many jobs in law enforcement, military service and transportation require depth perception tests.
Amblyopia, strabismus and failed eye muscle surgeries are the most common causes of poor depth perception. Restoring depth perception is high priority in any vision therapy program. You will be pleased with the long term results.
For more information on strabismus please visit www.strabismus.org.
One scientist’s journey to achieve binocular vision after strabismus surgery: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128977924