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Adult Strabismus

Frequently Asked Questions about Adult Strabismus
- excerpts from American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS)

Can anything be done for adults with misaligned eyes?

Strabismus (misaligned eyes) in adults is often the result of progressive, untreated or unsuccessfully treated strabismus from childhood. Also there are many adults who develop strabismus as the result of an injury or disease, which then frequently leads to double vision.

Can anything be done for adults with misaligned eyes?

Yes. Recent treatment advances allow most adults with misaligned eyes to have surgical correction.   Treatment of adult strabismus generally requires eye muscle surgery. However, some patients may need glasses, prisms, medications, or may be best left untreated. The photographs shown here illustrate cases with successful surgical outcomes; however, as with any form of treatment, success can vary and complications may occur. The best way to determine whether straightening of the eyes is possible and appropriate, is to undergo an examination by an experienced strabismus surgeon like Minou Colis, MD.

Is eye straightening as an adult strictly cosmetic?

No. Eye alignment surgery improves eye function in most adults and can lead to social and economic benefits.  In the past, doctors thought that adults with misaligned eyes could not be treated successfully, or that treatment was "only cosmetic". Many patients report improved self-esteem, communication skills, job opportunities, reading and driving. Also, treating adults with strabismus may improve depth perception, the way the two eyes work together, and the field of vision.  However, strabismus surgery does not reverse or improve amblyopia.


Does my insurance cover the expense of this surgery?

Although eye muscle surgery is reconstructive (not cosmetic), one should check with the insurance carrier to determine their specific policy.


Is eye muscle surgery risky for adults?

No. However, every surgical procedure has some risks. For strabismus surgery, the most common risks are residual misalignment and double vision (usually temporary). Fortunately, the more serious risks of anesthetic complications, infection, bleeding, retinal detachment, and decreased vision are rare. 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 and additional surgery may be required.


How painful is this type of surgery?

Discomfort after eye muscle surgery is usually similar to a foreign body sensation in the eye, lasting several days. Over-the-counter pain medication often reduces the discomfort, although stronger medication is sometimes prescribed. Most patients return to full activity in 1-2 weeks. No swimming and heavy physical activity for 1-2 weeks after surgery.


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

Eyes can be straightened at any age and should be considered as a treatment alternative if it enhances quality of life.


I am embarrassed by my misaligned eyes and avoid looking people in the eye. It seems to me that people are distracted by my wandering eye causing problems with social interaction and difficulty getting the job I want. 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.


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 1-2 weeks.