What is Exotropia?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 28 March 2020
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Exotropia (sometimes called walleye) is a disorder that affects the eyes, and causes one eye to wander or move toward the outside corner of the eye. It should not be confused with esotropia, where the eyes move inward or cross. However, both conditions are variants of strabismus, which can be defined as eye disorders that involve the eyes not looking at the same spot at the same time. Strabismus may affect vision.

Causes of exotropia and strabismus in general can be varied, and the condition might occur from eye injury. More often, it’s noted in children a few months after birth, but it may only occur occasionally, especially at first. Strabismus of many sorts does seem to have a genetic link, and parents who have a family history of this are wise to plan routine eye evaluations for their children.

Most people affected by this condition have what is called intermittent exotropia, and this means the tendency for one eye to move outward only occurs from time to time. Though the eye’s appearance is typically the best symptom for suggesting the condition, other symptoms might be present too, such as rubbing the eyes frequently, squinting, and having greater tendency for the condition to occur, when sick or tired.


The degree to which exotropia is bothersome may depend on individual patients and other conditions. Some people have deteriorating vision in the eye that may need to be addressed. Many people see quite well, but efforts can still be made to treat exotropia.

There are a number of different treatment recommendations that might depend on severity of the disorder. These could include using patches to strengthen the eye that tends to turn outward. Sometimes people simply get glasses and this helps the issue. In more severe cases where visual acuity is consistently being lost, eye surgery can be considered.

Surgery may be also performed on people who have esotropia (cross-eyes). A rare and unfortunate complication of this surgery is consecutive exotropia. Determination of how to treat this acquired condition varies by patient. Many do not favor a surgical approach unless eyesight is significantly impaired.

The best place to determine treatment for exotropia of any type is with an ophthalmologist, and people may want to choose a pediatric ophthalmologist for care of children. Some people really don’t get any treatment for this condition except possibly glasses. However, deciding when to treat and what treatment to do is a matter best left in the hands of skilled physicians who specialize in eye disorders.



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