“Don’t cross your eyes, it’ll get them stuck forever!” That is one of the many pieces of vision care advice we all get from our loving parents or friends growing up. However, eye doctors say that you can cross your eyes or squint all you want without any vision damage. Squinting will not make it so that your eyes get stuck permanently in a squint position.
How Eyes Process Images
If you close one eye and look at an object, you will only see one image. If you open it and look with both eyes, you still see a single object.
This ability where each eye sees an object but your brain interprets both images as one is called binocular vision, or sensory fusion. It develops when you are only a few months old and continues until you are about 9 years old.
Your eyes have another capability that is essential to maintenance of binocular vision — motor fusion. It enables your eyes to maintain proper alignment for sensory fusion as your focus shifts from distance to near and vice versa.
When you fixate on something close to your face, both eyes turn inward toward the bridge of your nose. In normal healthy eyes, this movement, or convergence, which is similar to when you cross eyes, is natural and necessary to avoid blurred or double vision.
Dangers and Risks of Crossing Eyes
You may cross your eyes as often as you wish, but the only thing you should worry about is the possibility of getting muscle fatigue.
This risk may stem from the excessive contraction of the muscles that control eye movement when you squint too many times. You may even get a headache as a result, but any such side effects usually disappear when you take a rest.
Serious vision concerns associated with crossed eyes include strabismus and convergence insufficiency.
Strabismus is when one eye turns in a different direction from the other during focusing and can affect babies and adults. When you have this condition, you do not cross your eyes on purpose.
Instead, you have a motor fusion problem resulting from poor control of the muscles involved in eye movement. People who are farsighted may also experience strabismus.
See a doctor if you or your child has crossed eyes. If a refractive error is the cause of the problem, eyeglasses or contact lenses may correct it. But surgery may be necessary to treat strabismus in people with weak eye muscles.
Left untreated, the condition can gradually cause the brain to stop using the affected eye, only relying on the other to support vision.
Eventually, strabismus can cause amblyopia wherein some amount of permanent vision loss occurs in the weaker eye.
If your child squints a lot when reading or doing other close-up tasks, do not assume that they are having their usual fun. Sometimes children with convergence insufficiency squint or close one eye trying to get better vision.
The condition causes one eye to point outward when focusing on close-up objects, resulting in issues like blurry vision and double vision.
Doctors Explain the Truth Behind 11 Popular Eye Myths. (October 29, 2009). ABC News.
Binocular Functions. (March 12, 2019). Eye Motility.
Convergence Insufficiency. (October 23, 2019). National Eye Institute.
Strabismus (Crossed Eyes). American Optometric Association.
Last Updated July 6, 2022
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