Strabismus (commonly referred to as having a 'squint' or being 'cross-eyed') is a condition in which a muscle disorder causes the eyes to point in different directions.
This condition is especially common among young children and may be hereditary. Normally, the two eyes both point in the same direction, sending nearly-identical pictures to the brain. When one eye is turned, however, the images sent from each eye differ substantially. When a child develops strabismus, the brain learns to ignore the image sent from the turned eye.
Adults with this condition often experience double-vision. Because the brain learns to ignore the image sent from the turned eye in children with strabismus, a condition known as amblyopia may result. A child with amblyopia will suffer from reduced vision in the weaker eye. Amblyopia can be treated by covering the strong eye so that the brain is forced to rely on the image from the other eye.
This can strengthen and improve vision in the weaker eye. Early treatment for amblyopia is essential. Strabismus can often be treated by prescribing special glasses for the child. In other cases, surgery is necessary. Surgical correction of strabismus involves the repositioning of some of the six muscles that control eye movement. Depending on the nature of the strabismus, both the strong and the weak eye may require surgery.