What causes strabismus and how can I treat it?

Symptom Database

Strabismus, commonly known as crossed eyes or squint, is a condition characterized by the misalignment of the eyes. It can affect people of all ages, but it is most commonly seen in children. Strabismus can have a significant impact on a person’s vision and overall quality of life. In this article, we will explore the causes of strabismus and discuss various treatment options available.

What causes strabismus?

Strabismus can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some individuals may have a family history of strabismus, making them more susceptible to developing the condition.
  • Weak eye muscles: If the muscles responsible for controlling eye movement are weak or imbalanced, it can lead to strabismus.
  • Nerve abnormalities: Problems with the nerves that control eye movement can result in strabismus.
  • Refractive errors: Uncorrected nearsightedness or farsightedness can contribute to the development of strabismus.
  • Eye injuries or trauma: In some cases, strabismus can occur as a result of an injury or trauma to the eye.

Types of strabismus

There are different types of strabismus, depending on the direction of eye misalignment:


Esotropia is a type of strabismus where one or both eyes turn inward. It is commonly referred to as “crossed eyes.” This condition can be present from birth or develop later in life.


Exotropia is the opposite of esotropia, where one or both eyes turn outward. It is often referred to as “wall-eyed.” Exotropia can also be present from birth or develop later in life.

Strabismus in children

Strabismus is frequently observed in children, and early detection and treatment are crucial. If left untreated, strabismus can lead to amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye. Amblyopia occurs when the brain favors one eye over the other, resulting in reduced vision in the weaker eye.

Children with strabismus may experience the following symptoms:

  • Eyes that do not align properly
  • Squinting or closing one eye
  • Tilting or turning the head to see
  • Poor depth perception
  • Eye strain or fatigue

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, it is essential to consult an eye care professional for a comprehensive examination.

Strabismus treatment options

The treatment for strabismus depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition, the age of the patient, and the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment options:

Non-surgical treatments

Non-surgical treatments are often the first line of defense against strabismus, especially in children. These treatments aim to strengthen the weak eye muscles and improve eye coordination. Non-surgical options include:

  • Prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses: Correcting refractive errors can sometimes alleviate the symptoms of strabismus.
  • Eye patches: Covering the stronger eye with a patch can encourage the weaker eye to work harder, helping to improve alignment.
  • Vision therapy: This involves a series of exercises and activities designed to improve eye coordination and strengthen eye muscles.

Strabismus surgery

If non-surgical treatments do not effectively correct the misalignment, strabismus surgery may be recommended. The surgical procedure aims to adjust the position of the eye muscles, allowing the eyes to align properly. Strabismus surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia and has a high success rate.

After the surgery, the patient may need to wear an eye patch or use eye drops to aid in the healing process. Regular follow-up visits with the eye surgeon are essential to monitor progress and ensure optimal results.

Preventing and managing strabismus

While it may not always be possible to prevent strabismus, there are steps you can take to promote healthy eye development in children:

  • Schedule regular eye exams: Early detection of strabismus or other vision problems is crucial for effective treatment.
  • Protect the eyes: Encourage your child to wear protective eyewear during sports or activities that pose a risk of eye injury.
  • Limit screen time: Excessive screen time can strain the eyes and potentially contribute to vision problems.
  • Encourage eye exercises: Simple eye exercises, such as focusing on distant objects or tracking moving targets, can help strengthen eye muscles.

It is important to remember that each case of strabismus is unique, and the appropriate treatment plan may vary. Consulting with an experienced eye care professional is essential to determine the most suitable course of action.


Strabismus, or crossed eyes, is a condition characterized by eye misalignment. It can be caused by various factors, including genetic predisposition, weak eye muscles, nerve abnormalities, refractive errors, and eye injuries. Strabismus is commonly observed in children and can lead to lazy eye if left untreated. Treatment options include non-surgical approaches such as eyeglasses, eye patches, and vision therapy, as well as surgical intervention. Early detection and appropriate treatment are crucial for managing strabismus effectively. By following preventive measures and seeking professional guidance, individuals with strabismus can improve their eye alignment and overall visual health.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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