Causes and Treatments for Crossed Eyes in Newborns

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Having a cross-eyed look is very typical for newborns. Usually, the appearance of crossed eyes in newborns is nothing concerning. It's often the result of under-developed eye coordination or skin folds that make it look as though a baby has crossed eyes when they don't.

However, if an older baby has crossed eyes, something else may be going on, such as an eye condition known as strabismus (when the eye muscles don't work correctly). This article explains the causes and treatment for crossed eyes in babies and when to see a healthcare provider for an evaluation.

Newborns and Crossed Eyes

There are several reasons the appearance of crossed eyes occurs with new babies. One is that sometimes babies are born with extra skin folds in the inner corners of their eyes, giving them an appearance of crossed eyes. However, as these babies grow, these folds start to disappear.

Cross eyed baby
albert mollon / Getty Images

Another reason a newborn infant's eyes appear crossed from time to time is due to a lack of development at this stage. Therefore, it is common for a newborn's eyes to move independently of each other.

The cross-eyed look sometimes causes concern for new parents. However, by the age of 3 or 4 months, an infant's eyes should be straight and able to focus on objects without turning outward or inward.

Older Babies and Crossed Eyes

Strabismus is an eye misalignment resulting from a failure of the eye muscles to work together. If your baby is older than 4 months and still has the appearance of crossed eyes, you might suspect strabismus.

Symptoms to watch for include:

  • Eyes that continue to cross
  • Eyes that move inward or outward
  • Eyes that don't appear to focus together

Early detection of strabismus or other eye disorders is vital for preserving a child's future vision. An eye doctor can perform several tests on babies and young children to determine if treatment is needed.

If your child has strabismus and does not receive proper treatment, their brain could start to ignore the messages sent from one of their eyes. Over time, the neglected eye may become lazy and result in vision loss if left untreated.

This visual condition is known as amblyopia or "lazy eye." In addition to developing amblyopia, depth perception could also be affected.

Recap

When babies older than 3 or 4 months have crossed eyes, an eye condition called strabismus may be the cause. If left uncorrected, strabismus can lead to vision loss.

Causes

Strabismus sometimes runs in families. But it can also show up in children with no family history. When genetics don't play a role, it's more likely a doctor will diagnose a significant vision problem.

Some children are more at risk of developing strabismus, including:

Treatment

Doctors can often correct strabismus with glasses. This treatment is usually successful if caught early in a child's life.

However, sometimes wearing glasses is not enough to correct strabismus, and treatment may include surgical correction. Eye doctors will operate on the eye muscles, maneuvering them to pull the eyes into the correct position.

Summary

Crossed eyes during the newborn stage are quite common. However, if a baby older than 3 or 4 months has crossed eyes, they may have an eye condition called strabismus. This condition requires treatment, or it could lead to lazy eye and vision loss. Glasses often correct the situation, but it sometimes requires surgery.

A Word From Verywell

If you suspect that your baby has a vision problem due to crossed eyes, make an appointment with an eye doctor. If your baby has an eye problem, the sooner treatment starts, the better the results will usually be.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Ye XC, Pegado V, Patel MS, Wasserman WW. Strabismus genetics across a spectrum of eye misalignment disordersClin Genet. 2014;86(2):103–111. doi:10.1111/cge.12367

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By Troy Bedinghaus, OD
Troy L. Bedinghaus, OD, board-certified optometric physician, owns Lakewood Family Eye Care in Florida. He is an active member of the American Optometric Association.