Wandering Eye / Exotropia

Intermittent Exotropia (Eye Wandering)

Intermittent exotropia, also called wandering eye, is a type of strabismus (eye misalignment) in which the eyes drift out (exotropia) from time to time. This is a relatively common type of strabismus in both children and adults. The amount of deviation varies widely from person-to-person.


Parents may begin to notice their child's eye turns out, especially when the child is tired, daydreaming, or sick. Parents may also notice their child closes or squints one eye when outside in bright sunshine.


The treatment for intermittent exotropia can range from observation, conservative management, to surgery. We typically choose to observe the child when:

  • There is only a small to moderate deviation
  • If they can control it well so the eye drifts less than half of their waking hours,
  • So long as their ability to use their eyes together (stereoacuity) is good.

We may choose some conservative management like alternatively patching either eye when there is no amblyopia (lazy eye) in young children, or putting them in glasses that are purposely over-powered to encourage the eyes to come together in children until about age 10 or 11.

We can perform eye muscle surgery to make the eye easier to control at any age and may recommend surgery if:

  • The deviation becomes large
  • The child begins to lose the ability to use their eyes together (stereoacuity)
  • The child experiences a psychosocial impact like being picked on at school

If you think your child or you have intermittent exotropia, we recommend they be seen by a pediatric ophthalmologist for an evaluation.

To schedule an appointment, call (509) 456-0107