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ICD-10 H50.2
ICD-9 378.31
MeSH C10.292.562.887

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Hypertropia is a condition of misalignment of the eyes (strabismus), whereby the visual axis of one eye is higher than the fellow fixating eye. Hypotropia is the similar condition, focus being on the eye with the visual axis lower than the fellow fixating eye. Dissociated vertical deviation is a special type of hypertropia leading to slow upward drift of one or rarely both eyes, usually when the patient is inattentive.


Hypertropia may be either congenital or acquired, and misalignment is due to imbalance in extraocular muscle function. The superior rectus, inferior rectus, superior oblique, and inferior oblique muscles affect the vertical movement of the eyes. These muscles may be either paretic, restrictive (fibrosis) or overactive effect of the muscles. Congenital cases may have developmental abnormality due to abnormal muscle structure, usually muscle atrophy / hypertrophy or rarely, absence of the muscle and incorrect placement. Specific & common causes include:

Sudden onset hypertropia in a middle aged or elderly adult may be due to compression of the trochlear nerve and mass effect from a tumor, requiring urgent brain imaging using MRI to localise any space occupying lesion. It could also be due to infarction of blood vessels supplying the nerve, due to diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Associated defects

Refractive errors such as hyperopia and Anisometropia may be associated abnormalities found in patients with vertical strabismus. The vertical miscoordination between the two eyes may lead to

  • Strabismic amblyopia, (due to deprivation / suppression of the deviating eye)
  • cosmetic defect (most noticed by parents of a young child and in photographs)
  • Face turn, depending on presence of binocular vision in a particular gaze
  • diplopia or double vision - more seen in adults (maturity / plasticity of neural pathways) and suppression mechanisms of the brain in sorting out the images from the two eyes.
  • Cyclotorsional deviation of the eyes (rotation around the visual axis), particularly when the root cause is an oblique muscle paresis causing the hypertropia.


In general, strabismus can be approached and treated with a variety of procedures. Depending on the individual case, treatment options include:

  • Correction of refractive errors by Glasses
  • Prism therapy (if tolerated, to manage diplopia)
  • Patching (mainly to manage amblyopia in children and diplopia in adults)
  • Botulinum Toxin Botox injection
  • Surgical correction

Surgical correction of the hypertropia is desired to achieve binocularity, manage diplopia and/or correct the cosmetic defect. Steps to achieve the same depend on mechanism of the hypertropia and identification of the offending muscles causing the misalignment. Various surgical procedures have been described and should be offered after careful examination of eyes, including a detailed orthoptic examination focussing on the disturbances in ocular motility and visual status. Specialty fellowship trained pediatric ophthalmologists and strabismus surgeons are best equipped to deal with these complex procedures.


See also