What is a Squint?
A squint (also known as a strabismus) is a condition that arises due to one of the following:
- An incorrect balance of the muscles that move the eye
- Faulty nerve signals to the eye muscles
- Focusing faults (usually with long sight)
If these are out of balance, the eye may turn in (converge), turn out (diverge) or sometimes turn up or down. This prevents the eyes from working properly together, and it can lead to blurred or double vision. If left untreated, a ‘lazy eye’ (or amblyopia) can develop.
Who is at Risk of Squint?
There are many different types of squint, which can occur at any age – although the condition tends to be more common in young children. A baby can be born with a squint or develop one soon after birth. Around 5 – 8% of children are affected by a squint or a squint-related condition, which means 1 or 2 in every group of 30 children.
If a child appears to have a squint at any age from 6 weeks onwards, it is important to seek professional advice quickly. Many children with squints have poor vision in the affected eye. If treatment is needed, it’s essential that it’s started straight away to ensure the best results.
What Causes Squint?
The cause of squint is not always known, and some children are more likely to develop it than others.
Treatment for Squint
Treatment varies accordingly to the type of squint. An operation is not always needed. The main forms of treatment are:
- Spectacles – To correct any sight problems, especially long sight.
- Occlusion –This involves patching the good eye to encourage the weaker eye to be used. This is usually done under the supervision of an orthoptist.
- Eye drops –Certain types of squint can be treated with the use of special eye drops.
- Surgery – This is used to treat congenital squints, together with other forms of treatment in older children, if needed. Surgery can be performed as early as a few months of age.
Squint can be a complex condition and not every situation is covered here. Your optometrist will be pleased to give further advice, if needed. Children will benefit from support and encouragement during treatment and you should not be afraid to ask questions that will help you understand the condition. The successful outcome of treatment depends upon everyone co-operating.