Strabismus (Squint Eyes)— All You Need To Know

girl child with strabismus

Strabismus, more commonly known as squint or crossed eyes, is the term used when a person’s eyes do not point in the same direction. 

The condition means that both eyes are not able to focus on an object at the same time. The two most common forms of strabismus are esotropia, where the eyes turn in, or exotropia, where they turn outwards (there are some less common forms of squint as well). The signs of squint can become apparent when a child is around six months old, but it can occur later in life too.

What Causes Strabismus?

Strabismus can be present from birth or develop in later childhood or adult life.

The exact cause of squint are not entirely understood. However, especially in younger children it can be associated with reduced vision in one or both eyes, causing over focussing issues. In some instances, it can be due to problems or abnormalities in the muscles and nerves surrounding the eyes. In some cases, strabismus occurs as a result of an eye injury or trauma to the head. Strabismus can also reoccur in adults who had a squint corrected in childhood.  

If you see signs of squint developing at any age, it is important to consult a strabismus specialist in Adelaide as soon as possible. This is because the condition could be an indicator of an underlying health problem (such as diabetes, a thyroid disfunction or a tumour), or a developing eye disease.

How to detect strabismus in children

The signs and symptoms of strabismus in children can include: 

       Eyes that do not look in the same direction (this can be difficult to spot when the eye turns outwards or inwards only slightly);

       Eyes that do not move in unison;

       Blinking or closing one eye when exposed to bright light;

       Tilting or turning the head in order to look at the objects; and

       Stumbling or bumping into things due to limited depth perception or double vision.

Most children will have either what is known as an alternating squint, where the misalignment changes between the eyes, or a constant squint, i.e., one of the eyes is mostly misaligned. In some cases, they may have a latent squint that only appears when they are tired or stressed, or a transient squint, which appears and then disappears after a short period of time or after a blink.

Sometimes babies’ eyes will look as though they are not aligned, but they are in fact focusing together on the same object. This condition is called pseudostrabismus or false strabismus. The appearance of crossed eyes is caused by the child having a wide bridge of the nose, or extra skin that covers the inner corner of the eyes.

Alternatively, children who do have strabismus can seem as if they are having no vision problems. This is why it is important that children undergo regular eye checks to ensure that their vision and sight is developing as it should be.

Common myths about squint or strabismus

There are a number of myths and misconceptions associated with both squint and the forms of strabismus treatment that are available. 

1.     Strabismus will disappear in time: One of the most persistent myths is that a squint will naturally disappear over time without any form of strabismus treatment. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If your child is developing a squint, it is important to make an appointment with a strabismus specialist in Adelaide as early as possible. This is because squint can also lead to the development of amblyopia (lazy eye) unless it is identified and treated early. Other conditions that can occur without squint eye treatment include double vision and loss of depth perception or 3D vision. 

2.     There is no treatment for squint: It is sometimes said that there are no options when it comes to strabismus treatment. This is a myth, as it is possible for the condition to be rectified. An ophthalmologist may, for instance, suggest glasses or contact lenses, prism lenses or muscle exercises that help with eye alignment and focus. In more severe cases, an eye specialist may recommend strabismus surgery as a solution. 

3.     A squint is an aesthetic issue and does not affect eye health: It is true that self confidence and self-esteem can be severely impacted in children (and adults) who have strabismus. However, early squint eye treatment is not just necessary for cosmetic and mental health reasons, it can also prevent the development of lazy eye and other eye health issues, some of which could potentially lead to vision loss (lazy eye/amblyopia) 

4.     Only children suffer from squint: Although strabismus most commonly appears in children, it can begin to develop in later childhood or early adult years. However, even when squint appears later, it can potentially be treated though strabismus surgery or non-invasive methods. 

5.     Strabismus surgery is a high-risk procedure: Dr Swati Sinkar is vastly experienced at carrying out strabismus surgery in Adelaide on children of all ages. It is a very safe procedure that corrects esotropia and exotropia, and enables both eyes to focus more clearly and evenly. 

Visit a Strabismus specialist in Adelaide

If there are any signs that your child is developing a squint, it is important that you consider all potential strabismus treatment options that are available. 
 
Dr Swati Sinkar is a Paediatric eye specialist who diagnoses and treats all eye conditions, including crossed eyes and amblyopia. She also undertakes strabismus surgery in Adelaide to correct squint in children.