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What Are the Most Common Treatments for Strabismus in Children?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated May 17, 2024
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Strabismus is the uncontrolled outward, inward, up, or down turning of one or both eyes. The most common treatments for strabismus in children are corrective eyeglasses or prisms, vision therapy, and surgery. When strabismus involves one eye, treatment is typically to mask the vision in the stronger, properly-functioning eye with a patch or with eye-blurring eye drops to force the weaker eye to become stronger. Early treatment of strabismus in children will help to reprogram the neural pathway between the eye and the brain, strengthen and develop the eye muscles, and prevent a feeling of self-consciousness resulting from the condition.

For minor cases of strabismus in children, eye glasses may be used to treat the condition and improve vision. The lenses of the glasses are specially designed to help the eyes focus better under the strained condition. Prisms may also be placed in the lenses to correct the double vision caused by the condition. This form of treatment does not always cure the condition, and the misalignment may return when the glasses are removed. When just one eye is slightly turned, the most common treatment for strabismus in children is to place a patch over the good eye or blur the vision in the good eye with eye drops so that the muscles in the weak eye are forced to improve.

Vision therapy is another common treatment for strabismus in children. This form of therapy is a rehabilitation program which employs muscle strengthening and control exercises along with exercises to retraining the brain-eye connection. The goals of vision therapy is to work to realign the eyes, improve focus, synchronize eye movements, and work on visual processing. These objectives are met by using repetitive exercise with specially tailored optical devices or computer programs as well as corrective lenses and prisms. In-office exercises are typically coupled with daily exercises at home to continue strengthening the muscles and the eye-brain connection.

When other treatment measures fail, surgery is often used to treat strabismus in children. During surgery the muscles are loosened, tightened, or repositioned to prevent their continued pull on the eye in the wrong direction. The surgery is typically performed using general anesthesia, requires a smalls cut to be made in the skin, and necessitates a few days of rest and recovery. Both eyes can be treated at the same time if necessary. Surgery for strabismus can be performed as early as six months and is often recommended to help improve the eye-brain pathway and spare the child any embarrassment associated with the problem.

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