"Strabismus is the medical term for eyes that point in different directions, affecting approximately three to five per cent of the Australian population," says Dr Matthew Spargo who recently joined the team at Blink Eye Clinic in Barton.
For people who have strabismus, one eye looks directly at an object, whereas the other eye will be misaligned.
This misalignment may point the other eye:
- Inward - called esotropia, crossed eyes or cross-eyed
- Outward - called exotropia or wall-eyed
- Upward - hypertropia
- Or downward - hypotropia
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Strabismus can also be constant or intermittent.
It can be a congenital (inherited) condition or acquired later in life.
It may be the result of muscle dysfunction, a severe injury (trauma), be brought on by any disease that causes vision loss in one eye, problems of the brain, or hyperopia (more commonly known as farsightedness).
"Most forms of strabismus occur in childhood, which if left untreated, persist into adulthood," Dr Spargo explains.
Strabismus can cause difficulty with depth perception, reading and other tasks that involve focusing your vision on something near to you.
"If a child has a turned eye, the vision can become significantly reduced and adults can develop disabling double vision," Dr Spargo says.
A remarkable number of celebrities past and present have been observed to have one form of strabismus or another, demonstrating that you can live with this condition if you choose to.
If it's not a manageable form of the condition though, or it is interfering with other aspects of your life, then surgical intervention is an option you can discuss with your doctor or optometrist.
In terms of what that surgery would involve, Dr Spargo says that it is performed on the muscles of the eye as a day-only operation.
Dr Spargo also acknowledges that every operation carries risk. With strabismus, he says that serious complications occur "in less than 1 in 2000 operations."
Where appropriate, this surgery can also be performed on children or on adults.
In terms of how much time you'd need to take off, he says that most people are allowed to return to work about a week after the surgery, depending on what they do and how quickly they have recovered.
It is also worth noting that while this alignment correction will help the eyes focus on the same object as one another, it won't correct other vision problems. You would still need a separate treatment such as glasses or contacts to address farsightedness for example.
Dr. Matthew Spargo is a consultant ophthalmologist with sub-specialty surgical training in adult strabismus.
He has recently joined Dr. Richard Barry at Blink Eye Clinic's ophthalmology facility in Barton.