Introduction: The goal in the treatment of strabismus is to realign the visual axes to eliminate diplopia, produce or restore binocular vision, expand the binocular visual field, and/or provide a normal appearance. The treatment of strabismus in adults who do not experience diplopia or who do not have binocular potential has sometimes been regarded as "cosmetic." Many adults with strabismus have stated that it has had a negative effect on their lives. This study was designed to ascertain whether there is a negative social bias against adult patients with strabismus that could affect interpersonal relationships and limit employment opportunities.
Methods: An orthotropic person was photographed in primary, right, and left gaze. These photographs were then digitally altered to produce an esotropia and exotropia of similar magnitude. Subjects were then asked to evaluate a single photograph with reference to personality characteristics that are important for social interaction and employment capability.
Results: Overall, the strabismic faces were judged significantly more negatively, across 11 descriptive characteristics, than the nonstrabismic face. The effect of esotropia was worse than exotropia.
Conclusion: Strabismus creates a significant negative social prejudice. These biases can have a detrimental impact on socialization and employability. Treatment of strabismus may positively alter perceived characteristics of individuals and improve their ability to socialize normally and obtain employment. Therefore, the treatment of strabismus should not be considered cosmetic even when there is no hope of improving binocular vision.