Surgery helps straighten lazy eye

Published: Jun. 28, 2016 at 3:13 PM EDT
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Doctors call it strabismus, but most of us know it as lazy eye or wandering eye.

Special glasses, eye patches and exercises are used to train the eyes to stay straight, but very few patients realize there’s a surgery that can permanently fix misaligned eyes in adults.

Sixty-two-year-old Joe Ennesser loves the way life looks nowadays.

For most of his life, Ennesser hid his eyes from the world. He avoided eye contact whenever he could. He just couldn’t see straight, literally.

“I tried everything,” he said. “I read everything. I put thousands and thousands of hours into exercises trying to keep them to work together.”

Then he found James F. McDonnell, M.D., director of Eye Alignment Services at Loyola University Medical Center.

“It makes me really excited when they come in because I know that we can get them straightened out,” Dr. McDonnell said.

Too many adults believe surgery can’t work for them. They think they’re too old, the surgery doesn’t work or it won’t last.

“They look at you and say, ‘What are you gonna do?’” Dr. McDonnell said. “I say, ‘Well, we’re gonna find out where your muscles are, and then we’re gonna move them so that your eyes are straight when we’re done.’”

Sounds simple, but it does involve knowing which eye muscle should be shortened, lengthened or moved. Dr. McDonnell uses adjustable stitches to keep them in place.

“Maybe three, four, up to ten days later, we might see them in the clinic, measure their eyes and be able to kind of fine tune the adjustment so we can get their eyes right where we want them to be,” Dr. McDonnell explained.

“It completely changed my life,” Ennesser said. “It really has. My vision is so much better. I can think much clearer, that’s another thing that’s huge.”

With his eyes in focus now, Ennesser feels like his life is, too.

Ennesser said after the surgery it took about three weeks before he stopped seeing double because his brain had to readjust to not having to compensate for a lazy eye.

You can find the full research report