Squint (which is also known as Strabismus) is an eye condition affecting children in which one or both eyes are misaligned which means that they do not point in the same direction.
The direction of the misaligned eyes can vary and they may turn inwards (crossed eyes), outwards (wall eyed), up and down or any combination of these.
How common is squint?
Squint is a relatively common condition and affects around 2% of all children.
Squint may be present at birth or develop in a child’s early infancy; the causes can include an imbalance of the muscles in the eye, or it’s a sign that the child needs glasses.
Diagnosing a squint as early as possible is important, when treatment is simple and effective.
The first step to a diagnosis of a suspected squint in a baby or a young child is to see an orthoptist, who are skilled specialists in diagnostic techniques and are experts in squint and similar conditions.
Tests and treatment
There is a range of tests – including eye tests – that Orthoptists can undertake to check on a child’s vision and confirm the diagnosis of squint.
The treatment options for squint can include the simple use of prescription glasses, or require more intensive orthoptic therapy, and in extreme cases even surgery on the muscles of the eyes.
Squint surgery to adjust the tension of the muscles in the eye is actually a very common operation.
The surgery will aim to weaken or strengthen or alter the action of one or more of the extraocular muscles (depending on the direction of the squint) which move the eye, in order to realign the eyes.
The surgical procedure on the muscles may have a number of different options such as recessing (weakening), resecting (strengthening), their insertions moved (to adjust the muscle action) or more rarely adjusted in another way (advanced, plicated, tucked, belly sutured permanently to the globe etc).
Squint surgery is carried out by the surgeon under a general anaesthetic and the procedure generally lasts about an hour depending on the number of muscles that need adjusting.
About 90% of young patients and their parents can see some improvement in the squint, immediately after surgery.
But results are not always certain and there is some unpredictability in the procedure; it is possible that the squint may not be completely corrected by the surgery.
It’s possible that patients may need to have more than one operation for squint, during their lives. Squint can return at any time after corrective surgery and this can happen in the same eye or in the opposite direction.
Of course, an operation for squint does not have any effect on the quality of the vision itself and it may be necessary to do some patching after the operation.