What you need to know about… squint

Post date: 
Monday, 4 April 2016

We list the top 10 things you need to know about squint, the eye condition that affects one in 20 children.

1. “Squint” is a condition where the eyes point in different directions. While one eye looks straight ahead, the other may turn inwards, outwards, upwards or downwards.
2. Some squints are always present and others are only noticeable at certain times.
3. The medical term for squint is strabismus.
4. Squint affects around one in 20 children.
5. Squint often develops before the age of five, but can occur in children and adults of any age.
6. The exact cause of squint isn't always known. Some babies are born with it and some develop it later.
7. Acquired squints are often caused by the eye attempting to overcome a vision problem, such as long or short-sightedness.
8. Symptoms of squint include:
  • One eye looking in a different direction to the other
  • Double vision in older children and adults
  • Tilting of the head
  • Poor vision in one eye (known as amblyopia or lazy eye), caused by weaker signals from the squint eye to the brain.
9. If you suspect a child you support has squint, they should be referred to an eye clinic for assessment of their vision and to start treatment early, if any is needed.
10. Treatments of squint include:
  • Glasses – most children will need to wear them all the time, however many only in the short term.
  • Patching treatment – some children may need to wear an eye patch over the better seeing eye to improve vision in the affected eye. In some cases, blurring eye drops can be used instead of a patch.
  • Eye exercises – such as “eye push-ups”, where the child holds a pencil out at arm’s length, focuses their gaze on a point on the pencil, and then slowly moves the pencil towards the bridge of their nose, stopping when their vision becomes blurry.
  • Surgery – which involves tightening or moving the outside eye muscles and stitching them in their new positions (the eyeball does not need to be removed). Patients usually return to school or work a week after surgery, however it can take several weeks to fully recover.
This article first appeared in Moorfields Eye Hospital’s In Focus magazine.
The earlier any problems are picked up, the better the outcome. If you are concerned about spotting the signs of squint, please contact RNIB’s helpline on 0303 123 9999 or at [email protected]. All NHS sight tests are free of charge for children under the age of 16.

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