My strabismus: Two lazy eyes like 2 unruly two-year-olds!

Two childrenThose of us who have strabismus do not like to be referred to as having a lazy eye. We are not lazy. Because our eyes don’t work right, we often have to work much harder to accomplish a task than those who have normal vision.

But if any form of strabismus could be referred to as a lazy eye, it would not be the permanently turned eye that people most often associate with the phrase “lazy eye.” It is so hurtful to many of these people to be labeled with that term. Many have said in the support groups that when people call their eye lazy they feel people are really implying that the person is lazy. Please do not do it!

I have intermittent alternating exotropia, which means one eye or the other will turn out at times. (Since my surgeries, my eye turns are not as noticeable.) Our eyes are not lazy either, but in the safety of our support group, where we all understand, I used the term “lazy eyes” recently to describe the battle we face. Here is the description I shared:

My strabismus is more like two lazy eyes that neither one wants to carry the load, but both want to be the boss because they can’t get along with each other. My eyes are like two unruly two year olds, and my brain is like the mother that is always telling her children to stop fighting and play nice together and share. I suppose the therapy is like discipline…argh. My brain has to insist that my eyes do it, but my brain doesn’t like it much either. Like the parent who says, this discipline hurts me more than you, maybe?

This is the challenge we face every day. Hopefully my sharing it here will help you see just a little of that battle also, and to reach out to someone with strabismus. Those with permanently turned eyes usually have very little control over the turned eye. And those of us with intermittent or alternating eye turns work very hard just in order to keep our eyes focused long enough to see.

I see posts in our strabismus groups or our comments areas almost daily from people who have been wounded because of social isolation, or taunts and teasing about their “lazy eye.” People with strabismus have difficulty making eye contact. Not only are they embarrassed about their turned eye, but when they look at you it often appears that they are looking away from you.

You can make a difference for these people! One of the best ways to show that you care about a person with an eye that turns is simply to look them in the eye as you talk with them. It may appear that they are looking over your shoulder or at something else in the room. But they are not. You are the one looking around the room, because you don’t understand how their eyes work. They are looking at you!

Photo credit: martina perhat

34 thoughts on “My strabismus: Two lazy eyes like 2 unruly two-year-olds!”

  1. I have the same problem with both my eyes. If I’m reading, my left eye takes over and the right one floats off to the side. When I’m watching tv, my right one watches and my left one floats away. I can control it when I’m looking at someone but as soon as I get really tired, it becomes more difficult. I can control my eyes and move them independently, which freaks people out. Do you have a difficult time passing the test the eye doctor gives you? The one where you are looking through two binocular type lenses and you have to determine where the red line falls? I only see red in one lense and a graph in the other. My eyes won’t mix the two together.

  2. i have this problem, i hate it i hate being in public or talking with someone with making eye direct eye contact. it sucks i just had a little kid point out my problem telling me my eye was broken. im 23 so im in my prime and i feel so awful, i guess life can be alot worse it just is an uncomfortable thing to deal with cause when someone speaks they want eye contact, and if you dont give it your hiding something. alone.

  3. OMG I thought I was the only one that had two I have met quite a few with only one lazy eye. And what you say is true. Sometimes they just want to do their own thing. But after reading some of the posts on here I am so glad that I still have pretty good vision

  4. KINDA NUT TO SAY YOU HAVE ISSUES WITH the term lazy eye –

    WHO CARES !!!

    I had 3 surgeries – and by now – i can not worry about what others think –

  5. i am suffering all the time from time i wake up to the time i sleep

    i have right lazy eye and this shows a strabismus outward in my right eye so i am allways avoiding eye contact with people so Each day i am losing chances in my life and now i have no friends around and i cant continue liek this

    so can anyone pleassssssse tell me how can i make good eye contact with people ??? pleaseeee

  6. hello
    i got my first strabismus surgery and it worsts now i had a typtosis before and now everything is worst and i feel so regret that i had this surgery
    and my eyes so red …could anyone please tell me when this red will disappeare

  7. I seem to have a problem with my eye(s). You see i can’t pin point the actual problem. Lately i’ve been reading about amblyopia, and i seem to fall into some of the categories, i do have frequent head aches, blurred vision and i do wear contacts. But lately it seems it’s much more than that, when i try to make eye contact with some one they often smirk or giggle because of how i look. I’ve observed peoples reactions to someone with amblyopia and it seems different from the reaction i recieve. I’m not trying to be vein but have a chance for people to take me seriously. I’m sorry i’ve sort of drifted of topic, my concern is when i look in the mirror, when i do so i don’t see a problem with either of my eyes, maybe one of my eyelids droops but it’s not extreme. So i ask can someone direct me to a website or something where i can determine the issue and perhaps resolve it. Anyone?

  8. Confused, Have you joined our Eyes Apart email support group? Info is at the top right of every page on this website.

    You will find LOTS of help there. Almost all of the people there either amblyopia or strabismus or both or are parents of children with these conditions. They will be happy to help you figure it out.

  9. Liz I feel your pain I syumbled upon this web page and was suprised-relieved there is others out there that are dealing with the same day to day struggles I have endured my entire teen- now 28 years I look forward to learn more about my problem and can only hope there is a cure

  10. I am struggling with my daughters school right now….my daughter has the same condition just that her eyes seem to wander more so when she is really tires…..could it be that I am missing that she is struggling with this all the time…..please tell me how did this condition affect your school experiences???

  11. I have struggled with strabismus for so many years. I know what it’s like to be teased. I have had two surgeries many years apart and had very good results both times. I just wish my parents would have known that if you don’t have surgery when still very young your brain will not be able to put both images together so you will not be able to catch a ball very well, see 3D movies, or thread a needle etc. The surgeries were very easy and the 2nd one i had less than a year ago, i went home the same day!
    At least when I talk people don’t glance behind them and say “are you talking to me”? anymore.
    I went to Jules Stein UCLA and saw Dr Rosenbaum he is the best. He just did Anna Nicole Smiths daughter Dannilynn.

  12. After my surgery for intermittent exotropia on my right eye I’d give anything to un-do this surgery, now I see double all of the time, I never saw double before, I have been with this problem for since May 26,2006. I block my right eye now with black tape, I’ve been to so many specialist, my insurance is good but the reality is these eye care specialist/doctors/ophthalmologist don’t care what we the patience have to say, what we feel, they have their little diplomas and think they’re some kind of Gods, the quack that screwed up my eyes blew me off, was wondering why I was patching, has no compassion…
    My only goal now is to some how eliminate the vision on my right eye to stop this diplopia nightmare….. I am a 42y/o male working in a Aerospace firm…
    Anyone please help me..

  13. After 3 surgeries under the age of 6, I went from endotropia to exotropia. I am 26 old dude now and all hopes of being normal someday and living a regular life have gone down the gutter as doctors told me that results can vary and that there are other risks. Not only do I struggle at everything, with this ADHD like symptoms but I have to accept that I’ll have to remain like this for the rest of my life and that I won’t be able to look at people, make friends and stuff. My heart was stonecold and now it is all ash. sorry to be such a downer.

  14. Moe, I encourage you to join our Eyes Apart Email Support Group. You’ll find info about the group and how to join on the top right corner of every page of this site. If you join, you will find a group of understanding folks who are also dealing with strabismus. Many have felt the way you feel now, and they understand.


  15. Moe, and others, I’m right there with you– I was born with “crossed” eyes but after an infancy surgery can only control the direction of one eye at a time (though both are constantly seeing). Not being able to confidently look people in the eyes is the worst aspect, for me. Oh, and I almost couldn’t pass the driving permit test because it required letter forming– The left would see a “P” but the right supplied the line to make it an “R”… you know the deal. With glasses (I’m also far-sighted) my eyesight is close to twenty-twenty with no or little strain, so I’m extremely wary of all eye surgery… at 22 I don’t want to tamper with what is, other than cosmetically, a working system. Ah well. Thanks for the post Lois!

  16. Great stories shared here. Until surfing around tonight I had no idea that it was called intermittent alternating exotropia. Thankfully, it’s never caused me any real problems. Like Kelly in the first reply above, I can control my condition fairly easily. If I focus my vision through one eye, the other will drift. I’ve just become accustomed to instinctively focusing through both when I talk to people so most people never notice anything.

    My story is the same as many probably. Teachers and others would comment that one eye drifted. But they never would say it was the same eye. When I was in 4th grade my mother and I discussed surgery. I wanted none of that so I made it a point to just learn to control it. Eventually, I could distinguish how it felt to look through one eye or the other and just learned to work with them.

    My vision has always been perfect. Only now, at 45, do I use reading glasses sometimes, but that’s not uncommon from what I understand. As others have mentioned, I do have a problem on eye tests that isolate the eyes and have you talk about the merged results. I ran into this issue unexpectedly at the DMV one year. I looked in the machine and read the line of text to the examiner. She looked at me and said “Read it again.” I knew something was wrong so I took another look and through one eye then the next. Only then did I discover that the lines of text were actually made by a combination of the two sides. So I had read one side which had letters missing that were supposed to be picked up by the other eye. I quickly read the lines again, closing one eye then the other to put the whole picture together.

    My right eye seems to be the dominant one. If I’m not paying attention to it, I’ll find that I’m usually using it to watch TV, read, etc. One good side-effect is terrific peripheral vision in the drifting eye! I usually find myself driving with my right eye so I’ve always got one eye on my driver’s side mirror at the same time! πŸ™‚

    I hope that all of you who also have this condition can find ways to minimize or correct it. Maybe you can do what I did and learn to “feel” it so that you can control it too. I’m sorry I can’t give any better advice than that.

  17. Hello I was just looking and found this site I have strabismus and ambloypia im my left eye.i wear glasses and my left eye only turns inward a little bit,im starting eye patch treatment again wearing it 3 hours a day but honestly I’ve never let it hold me back when i was little I did get insecure but then I realized people are always going to say things and what matters is how you feel about yourself confidence is everything.I have plenty of friends and it makes me realize that they accept me for me.I’m living like an average teenager girl when you accept who you are and don’t let it hold you back its great and being comfortable and confident in yourself shows.There are rude people but when you show no reaction and thank them for stating the obivous and smile they feel like the dumb ones.The point is noone is perfect I know it’s a cliche but be thankful there are many other disease and disbilties that are truly sad and some people would if given the chance in trade places in a heartbeat. But if anyone needs someone to talk to you can email me a πŸ™‚

  18. I found this site after searching out how to tell if people with lazy eyes (sorry, I don’t think you or your eyes are lazy – anything but), even though their faces are turned toward you and they seem to be focussing and listening to what you’re saying, are their eyes actually seeing your face, your eyes? The reason why is that I have a friend and when I am talking to her I want to know beyond a shadow of a doubt about this instead of my mind constantly asking me “Is she listening or just pretending”. Those of us who do not have this disfunction tend to rely on eye contact to give us peace and calm that the person in front of us is actually listening and present to us. After reading these posts I feel extreme compassion for everybody here who suffers from this what shall I call it – unfortunate challenge. My mom was born with this and so were my brother and sister, also one cousin (my mom’s sister’s daughter). My brother and sister had surgery when I was about 10. I felt sad that I didn’t get to go to the hospital and wear sunglasses for a week afterwards. My mother also had the surgery at the same time. Ever since, none of them have suffered from this at all. I just got the genes that didn’t have it. I’m not perfect and have many other imperfections AS WE ALL DO. We wouldn’t be human if we were perfect. We’d be God. Thank you for your insight and for your tenderness and openess to share. Now I know that my friend is looking at me, she cares, and she’s paying attention. ?

  19. Bless you, “me,” for your comment. Thank you for caring enough to search in order to better understand your friend whose eyes are turned. Thank you for accepting her just as she is.

    You could have easily done what so many do by deciding it isn’t worth the effort or social stigma to be her friend. But you didn’t. You met one of the biggest needs people with turned eyes have. Most hunger for genuine friendship, yet few people are willing to make the effort to see beyond their eyes.

    Thank you for being a real friend to a person with a turned eye. Most people with turned eyes have developed compassion for others’ needs through their own suffering. No doubt she will be a wonderful friend to you as well.


  20. As a perosn with strabismus, I find the term “lazy eye” makes it easier for people to laugh at the condition and trivialize both the condition and the people who have it. Amblyopia has nothing to do with laziness. It is the greatest cause of blindness in children. Using the word “lazy” implies that the condition is due to a moral failing on the part of the sufferer and places blame and shame on him or her. This terminology does nothing to help people with normal vision understand how to interact with us or how to take us seriously. I am fed up with being shamed for something that is beyond my control. Let’s get rid of this disrespectful terminology.

  21. I have quite a few girl patches left over from my daughters recent issues. If anyone wants them I would like to give them to a child that may need them. E-mail me.

  22. Hello all,

    I am a 24 yr old female and I wore patches and glasses as a child but I guess after I stopped treatment my left eye began to get weak again. It wasnt as obvious a couple of years ago but Ive noticed it alot more this year especially in pictures or if someone wants to skype me. My biggest insecurity is not being able to directly look someone in the face. My other fear is that I will not fall in love. I want to be able to look into the face of the person im dating and if I cannot even look my own family in the eye I know I wont hold up with those outside the fam. I have the strength of God in me but I am so afraid to be in social scences because of that.

  23. do glasses help at all i am 21 and i’m just wanting to know.. i’ve worn glasses i don’t wear them all the time. Someone please let me know.

  24. I have the same problem. I guess we all have to deal with the fact that we’re just freaks and weirdos πŸ™ lol this sucks

  25. No freaks and wierdos here, Joseph :-). Not me, and not you either! We are special, hand-created and wonderfully unique. Yep, my eyes are still like 2 unruly two-year-olds, and I get very frustrated with them at times. They don’t like to cooperate and I think I fight with them as much as they fight with each other! But our eyes are not the sum of who we are. We are stronger and more understanding of others because of the problems we experience ourselves. There is so much we *can* do. Hang in there!

  26. I have lived with strabismus for basically my whole life, I had 2 surgeries as a child and I went from cross eyed to 2 wandering eyes as I call them. Honestly I never let it bother me, and if it bothered someone else I always just figured it was their issue.

    I do notice people looking over their shoulder when I speak to them and I just say its my eyes and I assure them I am looking at them. When I make friends with people I have a talk with them about it, and if they are cool with it, the topic generally never gets mentioned again. I think people only make as big of a deal about it as we make about it ourselves.

    Recently a child mistakenly said how come your cross eyed…which I am not but thats how they perceived me, I said thats the I was made and I didnt make a big deal out of it and neither did they.

    I decided to live my life and not think about it to much, I am married to a handsome man and I have lived a relatively normal childhood and life. I am now 53 years old and I have never let this condition stop me from living. I just dont think about it, and most other people dont either. I dont think Im weird or anything else, Im just living my life.

    My intentions for adding my comment to this discussion is to encourage people who have strabismus that you can live with it. If I had a choice I would rather not have it, but I do have it, so I deal with it without making it a major issue of my life. I have a husband, friends, and have worked many clerk jobs at stores and I do look people in the eye, however they react to me, is all them. I do live without feeling so self conscious that it cripples me, I hope others can do the same. I have found that people only make as big of a deal of it as I make of it. We are all beautiful inside and let the inner out shine the outer.

    Peace and Love.

  27. I had two lazy eyes. Which one that turned out depended on which I focused out of. I loved it because I could see things other couldn’t without turning my head. But I couldn’t make eye contact and was frequently asked “what are you looking at”. I never kept them still so people wouldn’t notice. I went on a ride at a fair and had alot wrong. For seven months I was in and out of the hospital. I was given two months to live. Finally someone offered surgery to fix my eyes. I missed half my senior year because no one cared to checked in my eyes. Looked in my eyes and saw the problem. Lazy eye surgery saved my life. Only a few people have a disease where the lazy eyes end up shutting your brain down. And I was the unlucky one at 17 years old. I embraced my lazy eyes. And I see the term lazy eye as an advantage. I can see things you can’t. Haha.

  28. I couldn’t see 3d. Got called a freak a nature and that I shouldn’t have been born. I inherited this. I couldn’t tell distance or sharpness of curves. I had correct lenses as a child as if to help but it was 1997. Haha. I had surgery nov 8,2012

  29. Hey this site is helping me out alot. I thought I had a lazy eye for the longest time. But then I realized that both my eyes wandered. I hace learned to focus with my left eye. Something that I never knew I could do. I am really wondering if a surgery can cure this or is this problem or advantage as previously mentioned is really a problem woth my brain. If anyone has answer please send me an email at

  30. Damien, I suggest you join our Eyes Apart email support group at Yahoo. Just click the purple box at the top of the page for more info and to get started. You will find people there who have had surgery and/or vision therapy. The question of whether strabismus is an eye muscle problem or a brain problem is one of those controversial questions. Learn as much as you can from others who have had surgery or vision therapy and is also a good idea to see both a strabismus surgeon as well as a doctor who offers vision therapy to get a good perspective on each.You can find a search area for both surgeons and doctors who offer vision therapy on the sidebar of each page at
    Best to you. Lois

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