What is a Strabismus/Squint?
Strabismus is a condition that causes an adult or child's eyes to point in different directions. When looking at an object, a normal person has both eyes pointed straight at that object. If only one eye is looking straight and the other eye is turned away, then that person has strabismus, more commonly known as a squint.
How does a squint affect my child?
An eye with a squint may become unable to see clearly. This weak eye is called a lazy eye. Lazy eye can only be cured if detected and treated early. The earlier the treatment, the better the results.
A person with a squint can only use one eye at a time. A person with two good eyes will be able to judge distances and depth more accurately than one with a squint. This may affect the choice of your child’s future career and sports. A squint may also affect the appearance and self-confidence of your child. Hence it is sometimes desirable to operate on the child’s squint at an early age. Last, but not least, an eye with a squint may have other conditions which need treatment.
For all these reasons, any infant or child with a squint should be examined by an eye specialist.
What causes a squint?
There are many causes. It may be due to a disorder of a part of the brain controlling eye movements or it may be caused by weak eye muscles, heredity, cataract, and nerve conditions. Also, any eye with poor sight tends to squint.
How is a squint treated?
A child with a squint needs a full eye checkup. This may take time as young children are often uncooperative and may need to be sedated. Even then it may still be necessary to come back another day to confirm the findings or even to put the child to sleep under general anaesthesia to allow an accurate examination.
Treatment may include a combination of patching, eye glasses, eye drops, eye exercises, and surgery. Treatment using the spectacles to correct any refractive errors may cure some types of squint, but to be effective the spectacles must be worn most of the time. As children often resist, the responsibility falls to the parents to make sure they wear their spectacles constantly.
Any lazy eye must be treated. The most effective method is to cover the good eye with a patch so that the child is forced to use the lazy eye. Adequate treatment of lazy eye improves the results of surgery.
Lastly, the eyes must be straightened to improve the appearance and to allow the child to use both eyes together, done usually by surgery. Surgery is only recommended if patching or eye glasses do not work.
How does squint surgery work?
Squint surgery is an operation on the muscles that move the eye.
Strabismus surgery involves tightening the weak muscles and/or loosening the stronger ones so that the eyes are positioned better. Special absorbable stitches will hold the eye muscles in their new position.The surgeon will not cut the skin around the eye, take the eye out of its socket, or use any lasers during the operation.
Sometimes both eyes need to be operated upon but this provides hardly any risk to the eye.
Will the operation be successful?
Almost operations will show an improvement in their appearance. Some will be able to use both eyes together and improve their judgement of depth and distances. The degree of success depends on factors such as the type and size of the squint and the presence of good vision in both eyes. In complicated cases, further operations may be necessary.
What are the risks of surgery?
This is a minor operation. As such, life-threatening or blinding complications are very rare. Children will be put to sleep under general anaesthesia, but this is very safe if your child is healthy. Sometimes double vision may occur after the operation, but this usually recovers without treatment after a few months.
How long will my child take to get well?
Your child's surgery will usually be performed as a day surgery. He will be admitted in the morning and will be allowed home on the same day after the operation. After discharge from the hospital, the next appointment will usually be on the next day, and again within one week. There is little or no pain after the operation and the eye is not patched, allowing the child to g back to normal study and play after a few days. Swimming should be avoided for a month.
Does it run in the family?
Most people with squints do not have affected relatives and are of normal intelligence. However, since it occasionally runs in families, it is wise to check the rest of your children if a family member has a squint.
A squint is a common condition affecting young children that may affect their sight, appearance and confidence if not detected and treated early. Every young child should have his eyes checked regularly. The treatment of squint is safe and effective but needs the full cooperation of parents.