Your Eyes Will Get Stuck That Way!: Strabismus


Your Eyes Will Get Stuck That Way!: Strabismus


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Two pediatricians, Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, and Dr. Rachel C. Vreeman, took a look at things our mothers told us and the current medical literature to see if our Mom’s advice was true. The result was the book, “Don’t Cross Your Eyes…They’ll Get Stuck That Way! And 75 Other Health Myths Debunked.”

Did your Mom ever say this to you? Do you remember the excitement of finding out that you could control your eye muscles and you didn’t have to look straight ahead all the time? Did you have a little brother or sister who bugged you and ran away in fear if you crossed your eyes at them? Was that about the time that your mother warned you they’d get stuck?


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Drs. Carroll and Vreeman examine this common threat about eyes. It’s not true that they’ll get stuck if you cross them voluntarily. Mom’s threat was probably to introduce an element of doubt in your mind. She may have been kidding. She may have just wanted you to stop bugging your little brother or sister. She might have heard it from her mother and thought it was true. But, you didn’t know which.

You use three pairs of muscles to see. Your eyes may get tired or you may get blurry vision if you keep them crossed too long. Using them too long to focus at one point, as though you were looking at something very close to your nose, can tire them. The same thing happens to me if I look at something at the same distance for too long.

I’ve had lasik surgery, with one eye tuned to long-distance and one for close-ups. If I go to a museum, for instance, I can’t look at paintings three feet away for more than an hour without tiring my eyes. Uncrossing your eyes, or, in my case, looking at things closer or farther away than the paintings, relaxes the muscles.

There is a condition, called strabismus, that two to four percent of the population has in which the eyes are not aligned. You are usually born with it. It is sometimes called lazy eye, or cross-eyed. It is treated by ophthalmologists. I had a girlfriend in elementary school who had this. You would be talking to her and one eye just didn’t focus on you. She wore a patch for several weeks until her weak eye got strong enough to match her strong eye and the condition went away.

Today, patches or eyeglasses may be still be used, or, in some cases, surgery. This condition can develop late in life from an infection or brain tumor. But, strabismus does not develop from crossing your eyes and teasing your little sister. No matter what your Mom told you.

Thanks to the book Don’t Cross Your Eyes…They’ll Get Stuck That Way for this idea.

Carol Covin, Granny-Guru and Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”


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Comments (9 )

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  1. JeriWB says:

    One of my sisters has lazy eye. It got better for years, but now seems to be worse again.

    • carolcovin says:

      I didn't know it could change once fixed. What did she do about it the first time, or did it just get better as she grew up?

      • JeriWB says:

        I just know she wore glasses when she was a kid, but stopped when she became a teenager. She had some eye exercises she was supposed to do as well. When she's tired, she says her lazy eye comes back. So that's all I know 😉

  2. findingourwaynow says:

    I was born with lazy eye and to correct it, it took surgery when I was 4. For years I thought it was due to the fact that I looked at the sun to long… LOL

    • carolcovin says:

      I've never heard of looking at the sun as a possible cause. We never know what conclusions kids are going to come up with on their own:)

  3. Geek Girl says:

    I also had a lazy eye that had to be corrected with surgery. Sometimes the eye muscles can be strengthened so that surgery is not necessary. It did not work for me so the surgery was necessary.

  4. In some parts of our country, strabismus is actually considered as a sign of good luck. This actually prevents parents from seeking timely treatment. Fortunately people are now realizing that this myth does their children no good and are visiting eye doctors well in time seeking treatment.