Straight talk about crooked eyes

Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.

Q: I am tired of being embarrassed about my one eye that's misaligned. I'm 28, just moved to a new city for a new job, and I know it doesn't make a great first impression. Sometimes people assume I'm stupid, and trying to meet women is really frustrating and uncomfortable. What can I do?

— Alton G., Little Rock, Ark.

A: Strabismus (that's the medical term for eyes that don't align properly) happens when eye muscles don't work together, because of faulty development of the nerve pathway from one eye to the brain. When the condition is treated early in life (it's the most common cause of vision problems in children), chances are good that therapy will do the trick and surgery may not be necessary.

However, when left untreated, therapy alone might not work. Plus, you also may have to deal with lazy eye, or amblyopia. That happens when the affected eye's visual messages stop being fully processed by your brain. This can narrow your field of vision, affect depth perception, trigger double vision or even shut off sight altogether.

Fortunately, there's been a revolution in treatments for adults with your condition. That means you might be able to have your eyes realigned and possibly reverse some of your vision problems. There's now a surgery using adjustable sutures that allows the surgeon to tune the sinews of your eye muscles — like Yo-Yo Ma tuning his cello — into perfect alignment. Also, injections of botulinum toxin (Botox) can temporarily relax strong eye muscles, making the weak muscles work harder. The theory? When the drug wears off, your eye muscles will be balanced and your eyes will align. (If you try this, make sure you choose an expert in treating strabismus this way.) These techniques, coupled with an eye patch, glasses and drops, may mean that pretty soon you'll feel a lot more confident on the job and in your social life.

For a referral to an ophthalmological surgeon who specializes in treating adults with this condition, contact the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus: 415-561-8505, or www.aapos.org.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at www.doctoroz.com.

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