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What is Wall Eye?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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There are two different definitions for the term wall eye. In one definition of wall eye, one eye has a very light iris, not corresponding to the other eye’s color. Horses with one very light eye may be said to be wall-eyed.

More commonly, when people use the term wall eye, they’re referring to a type of strabismus. This is a condition that can be treated, especially when caught early, and means that the eyes don’t focus in the same direction. A person with wall eye has one eye with an iris that doesn’t quite point in the same direction. The eye may look off to the side, upward or downward and isn't coordinated with the focus and movement of the unaffected eye. This may also be called squint eyes or lazy eyes. Typically only one eye is affected, and the other eye, if the wall eye is covered, tends to function well and normally.

Wall eye, like all forms of strabismus can affect depth perception in a most serious way, and when possible it should be treated when children are still toddlers. This is done usually through a combination of surgery, then eye exercises, special glasses, and medications. Treatment is most effective in children under 6, though children over 6 may still have good to excellent results if they were not diagnosed earlier.

A person with wall eye may have eyes that appear somewhat bulging or at least protrude a little bit more than is commonly seen, though this is not always present. In most cases, the lack of coordinated focus between the two pupils is easy to recognize and thus gets early treatment. The specific cause of the condition is unknown, though it appears that most forms of strabismus occur while an unborn child is still developing, and that what occurs is failure of appropriate development in the eye muscles. As yet there is no specific gene linked to this disorder and it may be more of a genetic mutation rather than an actual gene that might fail to develop the eye muscles properly.

The condition should not be confused with crossed eyes, which usually manifest as the eyes appearing to focus on the nose. Crossed eye can affect only one eye, but may also affect both. Cases of wall eye occurring in both eyes are extremely rare. Usually one eye works very well, while the other fails to provide the coordination needed for bifocal vision that accurately perceives depth.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By Windchime — On Jun 15, 2011

The next time someone makes a rude comment about a person with a wall eye, you may care to remind them that two presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy & Abraham Lincoln, were said to have this condition.

Perhaps for some people a slight disability works to inspire them to achieve. At the very least they are an inspiration to those who are learning to deal with vision restrictions.

By Potterspop — On Jun 14, 2011

@Valencia - I'm sorry to hear about your sister having to suffer like that. School can be a rough place for people with anything slightly different about them.

I don't suppose she needs much treatment or help these days, but I was recently reading about a study concerning wall eye and vision.

It was organized by the University of California, and showed a great improvement in vision when the subjects played video games for a couple of hours at a time, over a few weeks.

The children in the study did much better with this method than those using a traditional patch. It's great to hear about new and innovative methods of treatment. Plus, video games are appealing to youngsters, so there's less room for teasing.

By Valencia — On Jun 13, 2011

As a child I got used to hearing people saying mean things to my younger sister, simply because she had what was called 'lazy eye' in those days.

I wish that they could see how much those taunts and comments hurt her, or how much of a struggle my parents had to make her wear the eye patch she needed.

Recently I started a new job, where a colleage has a wall eye. I was horrified to find out that bullying isn't confined to children in the playground. Believing that ignorance rather than malice was behind this I was happy to make a stand and challenge such behavior.

It may not be a surprise to hear that the way we look affects our chances of getting a job and doing well at it. This is one of the last forms of discrimination to be brought out into the public arena for discussion and debate.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia...
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