Ophthalmology Adult Strabismus
Ophthalmology Adult Strabismus

Strabismus is a condition in which the eyes point in different directions. Usually one eye is pointed straight ahead and the other is pointed in, out, up, or down. Because pediatric ophthalmologists treat strabismus so frequently, they are often involved in the care of adults. Many of the treatment options are the same.

Approach for Adult Strabismus

Adults with strabismus are seen by several members of the staff and Children’s Mercy Hospital. They are seen in our outpatient clinics and the surgery (if needed) is generally done at adult surgery centers.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anything be done for adults with strabismus (misaligned eyes)?

Yes. Adults can benefit from some of the same treatment options that are available to children for treating strabismus. Treatment options may include prismatic glasses and surgery. Most adults with misaligned eyes are able to have successful surgical correction.

Why do adults get strabismus?

Adults may have strabismus either from a residual childhood strabismus or they may acquire strabismus in adulthood. New strabismus that develops in an adult can result from conditions such as stroke, tumors or accidents, but often there is no identifiable reason.

Is eye straightening as an adult strictly cosmetic?

No. Eye alignment surgery is performed in adults for several reasons and is never considered cosmetic. Adults frequently have disabling double vision because of eye misalignment. Prism glasses or surgery will likely improve the double vision, depth perception and enlarge the field of vision. Also, strabismus affects adults in emotional, social, and economical ways. Realigning the eyes can “reconstruct” the abnormal appearance of the eyes providing a better quality of life. Studies have shown that adults with strabismus are often viewed differently than people with straight eyes and surgery can change this.

Does my insurance cover the expense of this surgery?

Eye muscle surgery is reconstructive (not cosmetic). In most cases, insurance will cover strabismus surgery in adults, however, one should check with their medical insurance carrier to determine coverage with their specific policy. 

Is eye muscle surgery risky for adults?

Every surgical procedure has some risks. For strabismus surgery, the most common risks are residual misalignment of the eyes and double vision. Most double vision that occurs after strabismus surgery is temporary; however, persistent double vision is possible.

Fortunately, the more serious risks are rare. These risks include anesthetic complications, infection, bleeding, retinal detachment, and decreased vision. Health risks vary with the general health of the individual. 

How successful is eye-muscle surgery?

Most individuals have significant improvement in eye alignment with one surgery. Occasionally the surgery is only partially successful, or changes in ocular alignment may occur over time after initially successful surgery. Additional surgery may be indicated. Correction of double vision may be improved with the use of prism glasses.

How painful is this type of surgery?

Discomfort after eye muscle surgery is usually not severe. Headache, pulling sensation with eye movement and foreign body sensation in the eye are the most common complaints. These symptoms typically last only several days. Over-the-counter pain medication often reduces the discomfort, although stronger medication is sometimes prescribed. Most patients return to full activity in several days.

Is hospitalization required for eye alignment surgery? How will this affect normal activities?

Eye alignment surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure although the need for hospitalization varies depending upon general health and surgeon preference. Following surgery, most individuals return to nearly all normal activities within several days.

What age is considered "too old" to have eye muscle surgery?

Eyes can be straightened at any age and should be considered as a treatment option if it is likely to improve symptoms and enhance quality of life. 

I am embarrassed by my misaligned eyes and believe it's causing social and professional problems. Can this really be true?

Yes. Recent studies confirm these observations. Misaligned eyes can hinder social interaction, self-confidence and employment opportunities. All individuals deserve straight eyes if possible. 

I have been told that surgery cannot help me, what should I do?

Studies have shown that the vast majority of adults with strabismus who are told that they can’t be helped are given incorrect information. This may occur because of the nature of the strabismus or because of confusion about what the treatment goals are. In any case, a consult with a strabismus surgeon can often clarify the options available and the expected goals of treatment.

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