Crossed eyes in adults can also be corrected

Since she was a baby, Carleen Trautz's left eye turned outward, rather than looking straight ahead, and it made her life miserable.

Kids teased her mercilessly. When she talked to people, they couldn't tell which of her eyes was looking at them. As an adult, Trautz was self conscious, lacked self esteem and always tried to hide the left side of her face.

But since Loyola University Health System ophthalmologist Dr. James McDonnell performed surgery to repair the defect, Trautz's eye has been in a normal position.

"It turned my life around," said Trautz, 48.

McDonnell has performed thousands of corrective surgeries in children and adults whose eyes are misaligned for various reasons. But many adults who have this defect, called strabismus, wrongly believe there's no treatment.

When Trautz was a child, she was told to do eye exercises, which didn't help. "No one told me it could be repaired," she said. It wasn't until Trautz took her mother to see McDonnell for an unrelated eye surgery that she learned from McDonnell that her strabismus could be corrected.

Strabismus "is emotionally debilitating," Trautz said. "After the surgery, my self confidence expanded by leaps and bounds. I never dated before. Now, I'm engaged."

She underwent the surgery 11 years ago, and the condition remains completely repaired, she said.

Patients are given many reasons why they shouldn't get treatment: Nothing could be done after a certain age; they would outgrow the problem; they would need another surgery or if they had undergone a previous surgery nothing further could be done. Some patients are told that insurance won't cover the procedure.
"None of these things are true," McDonnell said. "This type of misinformation can come from friends, family doctors, and even ophthalmologists and optometrists."

McDonnell has performed the procedure on patients ranging in age from infancy to past 90, with excellent outcomes. In addition to restoring normal appearance, the surgery also can improve depth perception and eliminate double vision or eye strain.

About half of the strabismus surgeries McDonnell performs are on adults. To correct the misalignments, he operates on the muscles that control the movement of the eyes. He uses a different technique than the techniques typically used on children. In some patients he uses an adjustable suture technique that allows him to fine-tune the eyes into the exact alignment.

"Our goal is to restore patients' eyes to a normal functional alignment so they can use their eyes together to the best of their ability," McDonnell said. "We want them to be able to look anyone directly in the eye and feel confident that their eyes appear normal. When you can't look someone in the eye, it affects your fundamental ability to communicate. It can be very debilitating."

Risks of the outpatient surgery, which are very rare, include infection and detached retina.

Many adult patients have had the condition all their lives. Others develop strabismus as a result of such conditions as stroke, tumor or brain injury. Studies show these patients think about their eyes almost every hour of every day.

"You become very self conscious about it," said William Stofan, 59, who underwent surgery on his right eye, which drifted to the right. "I would not even think about asking a woman for a date."

Stofan said not being able to make eye contact was horrible. "When people looked at me, I felt like a freak," he said.

Stofan said he has had strabismus for years, but the condition became more noticeable about two years ago. He would make jokes about it, "but it got to the point where it wasn't funny anymore."

The surgery caused minimal pain -- Stofan took just one Advil the next day. "I'm back to being the old me," he said. "My confidence is stronger than it ever was."
McDonnell said the surgery is very rewarding. "There are always tears of joy and relief from the patient and from me," he said. "I'm like the town crier, but it's just so wonderful and humbling to see each person after surgery. It's a shame when patients wait years to correct something we can address in about 1 hour."

Some adult patients can be treated with Botox, which temporarily weakens muscles. The drug weakens the pull of a strong muscle, allowing the weaker muscle to gain strength. When the drug wears off in about two months, proper muscle balance and eye alignment often are restored, McDonnell said.
McDonnell is a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.


Loyola University Health System



  1. patrick patrick Jamaica says:

    iam 46 i want my cross eye to fix

  2. Mudiaga Gbenedio Mudiaga Gbenedio Nigeria says:

    It is sometimes terrible when I look myself on the mirror, I am 24 and I still don't have a girl friend because I cant just make eye contact with them because I have a crossed eye and this is driving me crazy...

  3. sylvia Wilson sylvia Wilson Finland says:

    I really like to get help this kind of help too. I am 20 years old and my right eye is not straight for 8 years now. When Iam at school people are always teasing me and i cannot say anything in the class. I cannot look someone in the eyes. Please I am in Finland and if there is any doctor that could help me I can fly to your hospital. Thank you..I am waiting for response please.

    • Elaine Wintrup Elaine Wintrup United Kingdom says:

      Hello i am 55yrs old ,and had a squint in my right eye for all my life ,horrendous years at school with teasing,afraid to make eye contact in case its noticed by others, wont have a photo taken as i look horrendous bee asing on and off for years for help , its only now at 55 i have finally been put on the waiting list for the hospital 18wks who cares waited all my life . never give up trying as your young do it now i have wasted so many years with this embarrassing condition .Good luck hope you have found help .

  4. Muzammil * Muzammil * India says:

    It is sometimes terrible when I look myself on the mirror, I am 28 and I still don't have a girl friend because I cant just make eye contact with them because I have a crossed eye and this is driving me crazy...

  5. Camille San Antonio Camille San Antonio Philippines says:

    This information really gives me hope. Im 16 years old. I had a procedure of cataract removal when I was just 8 months when the doctor discover I had a cataract. The doctor said the cataract was developed since birth. The operation was successful, though my left eye has a problem. It is not straight or in other words, i have a crossed eye with my left eye. I was 5 years old when I started wearing eye glasses wherein the left lense has to be in a high grade for the improvement. The doctor recommended a contact lense when I was a baby although my mom was afraid of the risk so she just have had that eyeglasses. I was always bullied when I was in elementary due to my condition. There's a point that came where they throw stones on me, while teasing me blind,or words that really hurt me a lot. I feel so down those times. My parents decided to transfer me to other schools to spare me from those bullies. I dont want to brag, but I became an honor student every year since I started school. I became 2nd honor, and even 1st honor when I was in my elem days. I was an achiever. I wrote poems. I act in plays. I became active at school. I always thank God because despite of all these things happened in my life, I became strong. Im strong I know. But not all the time. There are times I just lock in my rooms and started crying all night long wishing the next morning I would wake up having my eyes totally normal. I always pray. Always. But sometimes I tend to lose hope. Doctors said that at my age, maybe its too late to make it okay. Now that Im growing, I realized that it must ne treated. But how? Who can even help me? I dont want to tell to my parents that I always suffer because I know they will worry too much and cry because of me. It hurts me everytime I see them cry because of me. I want to be strong but I dont know where to get that strenghth aside from God whom I can tell everything. Im so worried and terrified at the same time. Im growing. I know I have many opportunities in life but my eye is the burden itself. How can I look for a job? Are they going to hire someone like this? How can I reach my dreams for my family? If I had this condition. I want to be an engineer really. But I know Im not qualified. I want to be accountant but according them it cant be because it requires a clear eye sight. I dont know how to deal with this. Im writing this to seek for help. I've been suffering for years.  Please help me. I want to achieve something. I want to prove something. That I can do all things possible despite my condition. Im desperate to be cured. I know it sounds funny but I want to ask Mcdonnell's help. Please here me out. Thank you so much!

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
Post a new comment
You might also like... ×
Novel technology holds promise for improving accuracy of type 1 diabetes tests