How old is too old to fix a wandering eye?

Posted on June 18, 2017

How old is too old to fix a wandering eye?

By: Jeffrey Colburn, MD

Taking care of adult strabismus (eye misalignment) is one of the most rewarding and impactful things we do in “Pediatric Ophthalmology”. Adult onset strabismus can cause double vision which can make navigating the world and doing daily activities difficult. Strabismus can also affect visual functioning in other ways, such as decreasing depth perception and limiting peripheral vision. Some adults with strabismus will not have double vision or significant visual problems either because they had the strabismus as a child and their brain adapted to it or because they are blind in one eye.

Even in many cases where the patient does not have double vision, strabismus can be very bothersome. Scientific research has documented the extra burdens that adult strabismus patients bear in regards to self-esteem, relationships, and occupation. We would all like to think that we could ignore someone else’s misaligned eyes, but our brains are hard-wired to seek eye contact as we interact with them, and this can often affect the social interaction.

Now many adults with strabismus are not bothered by their eye misalignment and that is great. But if they are, it is good to know that something can be done even as an adult. This comes as a surprise to many of our patients who have assumed or have been wrongly told previously that nothing could be done. Sometimes eye muscle exercises or prism glasses might be helpful. Often eye muscle surgery (strabismus surgery) is the best option. There is no age limit on performing eye muscle surgery and we have done surgeries on patients even into their 90’s if it is clear it will be helpful to them.

So if you or someone you know is bothered by eye alignment problems, consider having an adult strabismus evaluation and learning what your options are. To learn more about adult strabismus, check out this article on our website, or see this AAPOS discussion.