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Vision Therapy Helps Kids With Strabismus Avoid Surgery

Cute Baby GirlPeople with strabismus have one or both eyes that wander or turn in different directions, are misaligned or slightly uneven, or are crossed slightly or severely.

Ophthalmologists often recommend surgery for extreme strabismus. As a developmental optometrist, I respectfully disagree. Surgery is a cosmetic fix, often requiring multiple operations, and does not improve vision long-term. We can straighten the eyes through vision therapy and improve vision permanently without surgery.

About 80% of the children and adults we see in our office have some form of strabismus, and we have been successful in helping all of them.

With strabismus, eyes may wander in, out, up or down. The movement may be frequent or only when the person is fatigued or has been focusing on near work for a long time such as reading, texting, computer work, or playing video games.

Strabismus is not always easy to detect with the naked eye. Some eyes that look perfectly normal are just a millimeter uneven or turned when measured.

Eyes evenly aligned send two separate but identical views of the same object or words to the brain, combining to form a clear visual picture. Misaligned eyes send two separate angles of the object to the brain, creating a third image, usually blurry and difficult to see.

Strabismus can produce these symptoms:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Eyestrain and fatigue
  • Squinting or tilting the head to see better
  • Poor depth perception
  • Motion sickness
  • Double vision
  • Clumsiness, accident-prone
  • Poor sports skills
  • Trouble focusing, particularly when tired
  • Avoidance of reading, losing place easily

One additional warning symptom for strabismus is an imbalanced prescription for glasses or contacts. Except with injury, if a person has differing prescription strengths for each eye, they are not using their eyes equally together. They may have amblyopia (lazy eye), which is often caused by strabismus. The eye that is more straightly aligned becomes the dominant eye, and the brain ignores the other eye that turns or wanders and sends conflicting images. Vision is reduced in the lazy eye, and it can become permanent if not resolved.

The fundamental difference between eye surgery for strabismus versus our non-invasive method of vision therapy is based on the fact that the brain is the neurological control center for the eye muscles, and therefore vision. Nothing is seen without the eyes first sending an image to the brain, and the brain then sending a message back as to what is being seen. Thus, the connection between the eyes and brain is vital, and surgery severs those neurological pathways. The eyes may appear straightened, but it does not mean the brain and the eyes communicate properly. Vision therapy uses the brain to realign the eyes through a specific series of activities, thereby altering reflexive behavior for a lasting cure.

If you bring your child to us, we will first perform a developmental vision evaluation, which is more extensive than a typical eye exam. After diagnosis, we offer many options, including vision therapy plans suitable for age and situation. Our programs include eye patching, computer games, and fun activities your child will enjoy. For strabismus, the goal is to improve eye teaming, focusing, movement, and visual processing.

Click here for stories from parents who opted for vision therapy instead of surgery for their children with strabismus.

Your child does not have to have strabismus surgery, and we strongly recommend against it. Please call us today for more information or to make an appointment. Even if he or she has already had surgery, we can still help. We would love to “turn your child’s vision in the right direction.”