Around two million Germans suffer from esotropia, i.e. have a condition we refer to as being cross-eyed. This eye disease is one of the most common maladies to affect both of their visual organs. The problem is hereditary.
Important to know: Being cross-eyed is by no means only a cosmetic defect. The eyes of children who have strabismus sit at a false angle from one another, causing the child to see mostly double images. To counter-balance this unpleasant state, the brain uses a trick: The eye that is not affected by the disease begins to do all the work alone and the other eye is “shut down.”
The result: The unused eye continues to weaken and eventually goes nearly blind, although it would actually be fully functional if correct. The biggest problem: From around the age of 6, all the visual processes are so set in their ways that any treatment initiated after that age will not be successful.
Experts differentiate between several different types of esotropia:
- Latent esotropia (heterophoria)
An eye muscle imbalance is present. The brain largely counter-balances this type of esotropia. Fatigue and stress can lead to headaches and eye pain.
- Concomitant esotropia (heterotropia)
The eyes do indeed move in a uniform, coordinated manner in all lines of vision, but they are not trained on the same object. The squint angle is the same in all lines of sight. Treatment in childhood is very important for this eye disease in order to prevent a lasting visual impairment of the affected eye.
- Paretic esotropia (paresis)
Usually the result of a neurological disease, an accident or impaired functioning of one or multiple eye muscles.
Important information: A baby cannot focus on objects yet, so it is normal if the eyes are not parallel at times. The condition becomes problematic when one eye consistently deviates from the direction of the other eye. Another possible warning sign is if the child is “clumsy.” It can sometimes be difficult for parents to assess whether the child is cross-eyed or not. An examination by an ophthalmologist will provide certainty.
Treatment options for the different types of esotropia vary. The most common is the occlusion therapy. An eye mask is placed over the “good” eye to force the impaired eye to do its work. Sometimes placing a cover over one side of the spectacles does the trick. Either way, the brain is compelled to support and train the weak eye.
The earlier this treatment is initiated, the greater the chances of success. If the esotropia persists despite all of these efforts, surgery can be performed on the affected eye on pre-school age children.