What is a Squint?
A squint is when an eye turns or wanders so that it does not work with the other eye. The eye may turn inwards, outwards or occasionally upwards or downwards. The eye may turn all of the time or only sometimes, for example when the child is tired or concentrating. The medical term for squint is ‘strabismus’.
What causes a squint?
• Refractive errors —. Types of refractive errors include:
short-sightedness (myopia) – the ability to see distant objects is reduced
long-sightedness (hyperopia) – the ability to see close-up objects is reduced
astigmatism – where the cornea at the front of the eye is unevenly curved, which causes blurred vision
• childhood illnesses – such as measles
• Genetic conditions – such as Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy
• Eye problems affecting the muscles or the retina (the layer of light-sensitive nerve cells at the back of the eye)
Will child grow out of the squint?
Some very young babies have intermittent squints that get better by the age of three months. A squint that is still present after three months of age needs to be checked by an eye doctor.
Why does the squint matter?
The sight in the eye with the squint may not develop normally, because the eye is not being used properly – this is called a lazy eye (the medical term is amblyopia).
The squint may make it difficult for the two eyes to work together and this may reduce the child’s 3-D (depth) vision. This does not usually cause children any problems in their everyday lives, but there are a few careers that they may not be able to do, for example, driver, fire-fighter, pilot. Some squints can affect a child’s appearance.
What treatments may be needed?
Many children with squint need glasses. The most common reason for glasses is that the child has long-sight which is causing one eye to turn inwards. The long-sighted lenses help the eyes to focus and may stop the eye rolling. You may still notice the squint when the glasses are taken off.
Wearing a patch over the stronger eye can improve the sight in the eye with the squint if the sight is reduced because the eye has not been used correctly. The patch only helps to improve the vision in the lazy eye and does not treat the squint itself, but it is essential to enhance the vision before the squint can be treated.
If a child with a squint does not need glasses or if glasses do not correct the squint, then an operation on the muscles that move the eyes may be considered. The procedure straightens the eyes by improving the balance of the eye muscles.