A squint (also called strabmismus) is a condition where your eyes look in different directions. One eye turns inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards while the other eye looks forwards. The medical name for a squint is strabismus.
The misalignment of the eyes can be caused by a problem with the eye muscles or by an uncorrected vision problem, such as short-sightedness or long-sightedness. Squints are common and affect about 1 in 20 children. They usually develop before a child is five years of age, but they can appear later. Up to around two/three months of age, many babies occasionally squint as their vision develops. This is normal and nothing to worry about.
If your child still has a squint after this age, you should contact us for an appointment or ask your GP to refer you to an orthoptist.
It is very important that a squint is picked up and treated as early as possible to avoid vision problems developing. If a squint is identified when a child is young, there is a good chance that it will be successfully treated.
How does a squint affect vision?
In young children, a squint can cause:
- blurred vision
- double vision
- lazy eye (amblyopia)
If your child has a squint, their eyes are no longer working together and they may see two images (double vision) instead of one. To avoid double vision, your child’s brain ignores the signals from the eye with the squint and only recognises images from the normal eye. As the squinting eye is not being used, it eventually becomes ‘lazy’.
In older children, a squint may cause double vision but not result in a lazy eye. This is because their vision has fully developed and their brain is unable to ignore signals from the eye with the squint.
Treatment of childhood squints
Some squints can be treated here in the practice using spectacles. Other patients may require referral for further treatment by an orthoptist (an eye specialist who specialises in eye muscle problems). This may entail your child using a patch over their good eye to encourage the vision to develop in the bad eye. Some patients with squints may require referral to an ophthalmologist (doctor specialising in eyes) for surgery to straighten the eyes.
Can adults get a squint?
Occasionally, squints that have been corrected during childhood reappear in adulthood. Squints that affect adults may cause double vision because the brain has been trained to collect images from both eyes.
You should contact us or visit your GP as soon as possible if you develop a new squint or sudden onset double vision.