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What is Exotropia? - Bard Optical

What is Exotropia?

Girl with exotropia

Extropia is a form of strabismus, a condition where the eyes do not properly align with each other, where one or both eyes are deviated outward, or pointing away from each other.

Strabismus’ of all variations affect around 4% of Americans, and of those, around 25% have exotropia.

Let’s discuss the causes of exotropia, what symptoms to look out for, and the many different types and variations of exotropia.


The exact causes of exotropia are hard to pin down. All that is known is that exotropia occurs when the six muscles that control the movement of your eye are imbalanced, or fail to receive signals from the brain properly.

Beyond that, many signs of exotropia in young children point to the possibility that it is hereditary. That rumor is debunked, however, because there are several cases of exotropia in individuals whose family has no history of the illness.

Additionally, studies have shown that strabismus, including exotropia, is more common in those with mental disorders like cerebral palsy, down syndrome, or various brain tumors.


Perhaps the most obvious symptom of exotropia is an outward deviation of the eye. A more in-depth example of this might be noticing that your child’s eye might quickly drift outward while they are deep in thought, or concentrating on a task.

This is not the only symptom, though. There are several other signs to look for if you think you or someone you know may have exotropia, such as:

    • Blurry or double vision
    • Having to rub your eyes frequently
    • Light sensitivity
    • Poor depth perception or far-sight
    • Headaches
    • Trouble reading

While some of these symptoms can be an indication of other vision problems, having several of them in conjunction with each other can mean it’s time to go see the doctor.


There are several different types of exotropia that make up the different classifications of the disease, based on its frequency, and how it was acquired.

Congenital exotropia

Otherwise known as infantile exotropia, this type is contracted at or very closely after birth.

Acquired exotropia

This exotropia is contracted after a serious disease, trauma, or other strenuous health complications, such as the onset of Downs Syndrome, or a stroke.

Sensory exotropia

This type of exotropia is directly related to poor or loss of vision in one eye. The onset of this poor vision causes the eye to become weakened from disuse, causing the muscles to relax, and the eye to turn outward.

Intermittent exotropia

Perhaps the most common type of exotropia is when the eyes are normally aligned with each other and only sometimes move outward, usually as a result of sickness, exhaustion, or “spacing out”. Additionally, a study by the American Journal of Ophthalmology has shown that intermittent exotropia affects twice as many females as males.


Although exotropia isn’t necessarily life-threatening, it is a serious, and often noticeable, an illness that can lead to visual impairment.

The best way to combat exotropia is to stay informed on the health risks, as well as research what tips others that live with the illness can give to help live, and thrive, through it!

As always, if you or someone you know is worried that they may have the symptoms of exotropia, don’t hesitate to call your eye doctor today!

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