People With Visible Eye Deformities Face Prejudice
WebMD News Archive
June 20, 2000 -- "Don't cross your eyes or they'll stay that way!"
It's even more serious than the threat mothers have used on children who
purposely crossed their eyes to get attention. An eye that "stays that
way" brings adults a type of attention they don't want, according to a
Adults with misaligned eyes -- with one eye that either turns out or in --
often report difficulties dealing with people and obtaining employment because
of their appearance, according to a recent report in the Journal of the
American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus.
Because of the negative effects this condition can have on a person's
quality of life, many doctors now believe that these adults should undergo
corrective surgery, even if it doesn't improve their vision.
Having an eye that does not line up with the other is called strabismus, or
more commonly, 'crossed eyes' or 'lazy eye.' When a child is diagnosed with
this condition, doctors are more likely to suggest surgery, along with glasses
and patching the eyes as needed, for correction because children are more
likely to gain a vision benefit, such as getting the eyes to work together to
gain depth perception.
This benefit is not as common in adults, so doctors do not frequently
recommend surgery. And corrective surgery has been considered 'cosmetic,' so
many insurance companies don't cover it.
"People with strabismus don't just have a self-esteem problem, they also
have problems with the way other people view them," says Scott E. Olitsky,
MD, of the department of ophthalmology of the State University of New York at
Buffalo. "Because they don't look normal and because eye contact and
people's facial features are so important in everyday life, they clearly are at
risk of not getting certain jobs and are less likely to advance in the
workplace. Discrimination, although it's a strong word, is a word that comes
into play here.
"These people are not looking to be made cosmetically more attractive --
they just want to be made to look normal," Olitsky says.
One adult patient agrees. "He has done a miracle," he says of his
doctor, Arthur L. Rosenbaum, MD, who performed successful corrective surgery.
After seven previous unsuccessful surgeries to correct a right 'lazy eye,' this
patient, in his 30s, reports newly found confidence and an "uplifting of my
shoulders. ? I perform better and give my best. It has had a huge effect on my
life," he tells WebMD.
In the recent study to document people's perceptions, a photograph of a man
with normally straight eyes was digitally altered to look like he had either
crossed eyes or eyes that drift outward. A group of 212 college students was
asked to grade the appearance of the person in the photographs.