What is Strabismus Surgery?

girl with eye patchIf your child has been diagnosed with strabismus—a relatively common eye condition in children in which the eyes are not aligned—you likely have a lot of questions about treatment options. Your child’s ophthalmologist has probably mentioned patching or trying out glasses in an attempt to straighten the eyes before resorting to surgical treatment. However, sometimes strabismus surgery will be necessary to entirely correct strabismus.

Today’s post offers a closer look at strabismus, which may be related to amblyopia (aka “lazy eye”) or occurs separately. Children with certain disorders or health conditions related to the brain will be more likely to experience strabismus.

More About Strabismus

Strabismus occurs when the eyes are out of alignment because the six key muscles controlling movement in each eye are not working together in a coordinated way. This could be due to problems with the eye muscles or the brain.

In children with strabismus, the brain develops a sort of coping mechanism that will ignore visual information from the misaligned eye and rely on the stronger/better-seeing eye. This phenomenon leads to depth perception loss for the child. Unfortunately, if the strabismus is not corrected, a child’s vision cannot develop normally, and more significant vision problems or vision loss may eventually result.

Strabismus will be noticeable to a parent or other caretaker, as the eye misalignment will present as crossed eyes, one eye that “wanders,” or as a lazy eye. If you notice your child’s eyes appearing misaligned—even if not all the time—it is crucial to schedule an eye exam for him or her.

Children should be seen by an eye care professional for the first time at around 6 months of age, but strabismus can develop later, too. Additionally, if your child was born prematurely, has cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, or experienced hydrocephalus, he or she may be much more susceptible to developing strabismus.

Is Strabismus Only a Childhood Eye Condition?

Though today’s article is focused mainly on children’s experience with strabismus, it is possible for adults to develop the condition, as well. Cataracts, concussions, or eye injuries can cause strabismus.

Because adults already have fully developed brains, their experience with strabismus will be different from a child’s. Instead of depth perception loss, most adults will experience double vision with strabismus, which can make daily life tasks—like driving or performing essential job duties—dangerous or impossible.

What Strabismus Surgery Entails to Correct Strabismus

While surgery of any kind should never be agreed to lightly, the eye muscle surgery required to restore or promote normal binocular vision in patients with strabismus is a reasonably straightforward procedure performed by highly trained eye surgeons. Pain following the surgical treatment of strabismus is typically minimal, and children can resume their normal activities within just a few days.

The surgical procedure itself—for adults or children—involves creating a small opening through the conjunctiva (the mucous membrane surface of the eye) to access the muscle. According to the American Academy of Opthalmology’s description, “the muscle is then weakened, strengthened, or moved to change its action with dissolvable sutures.”

Strabismus surgery is performed under general anesthesia as an outpatient procedure. From some adults, surgical treatment of strabismus may involve local anesthesia, depending on their needs or preferences.

Is Strabismus Surgery the Only Option for My Child?

As we touched on at the beginning of today’s article, strabismus surgery may not be necessary for all children. Less invasive therapies or treatments can sometimes result in permanent resolution of strabismus. These include:

  • Eyeglasses with or without bifocal lenses, which can reduce the eyes’ focusing efforts and straighten the weaker eye.
  • Eye exercises that can strengthen weak eye muscles.
  • Patching or blurring the stronger eye to improve the weaker eye’s function.

An ophthalmologist with experience in treating children should be consulted at the first sign of strabismus to weigh treatment options.

Trust Campus Eye Center for All of Your Child’s Eye Healthcare Needs

Here at Campus Eye Center, our total focus is on providing the highest quality comprehensive eye care in our community in Lancaster County, Pa. This includes complete eye care services for even the youngest patients.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss any eye health concerns you have for your kids or yourself.