If your child’s eyes do not line up in the same direction, she might have a vision problem called strabismus. Sometimes, strabismus is called crossed eyes.

Strabismus is one of the most common eye problems in children. It affects about 4 percent of children under age 6. Some kids are born with it. Others develop it in childhood. Often, strabismus runs in families.

How is vision affected?

Each eye is surrounded by six muscles. These two groups of muscles work together so both eyes focus on the same object.

In children with strabismus, these muscles do not work together. When one eye looks at one object, the other turns in a different direction to look at something else. That means the brain sees two images—one from each eye. This confuses the brain, and it may learn to ignore the image from the weaker eye. If strabismus is not treated, a child could lose his vision permanently.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The earlier strabismus is diagnosed, the better a child’s chance of having good vision. You may be the first to notice if there is a problem. If your child has any of these signs or if you have concerns, talk with your pediatrician. He or she may refer you to a pediatric ophthalmologist, a type of eye doctor.

  • crossed eyes
  • double vision
  • eyes that do not appear even or straight
  • eyes that do not move together
  • trouble with vision or squinting to see

How is strabismus treated?

Every child is different. You and the doctor can decide what the best treatment is for your child. Treatments may include:

  • eye drops
  • eye patching
  • glasses
  • surgery

A child who has surgery to correct strabismus may need it more than once. Talk with your child’s eye doctor for more information.

To request an appointment with a pediatric ophthalmologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital, call 314.454.KIDS (5437) or 800.678.KIDS. If you would like information on strabismus sent to you via email or mail, contact the Family Resource Center (FRC) at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The FRC is 100-percent funded by generous donations to the St. Louis Children's Hospital Foundation.

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