Childhood Squint Frequency and Treatment

Childhood SquintIf a person has squint, both his/hers eyes do not look at the same subject at the same time. One eye sharpens the picture of what that person is looking at, while the other does not focus on the subject, but looks in the other direction – usually inward, but occasionally out or even up or down. This condition may occur constantly or occasionally, and the disorder may affect one or both eyes.

Squint usually occurs in infancy or early childhood, i.e. when the vision develops. It is usually associated with some other eye disorder – for example, with pronounced short-sightedness or long-sightedness. Most of the children with squint do not see a double image because their brain does not ”focus” on what their squinting eye sees. That eye will become ”lazy” (amblyopic). This means that the eye, due to reduced vision, will become defective and discern all the less details.

Frequency

Squint is fairly common. Annually, one in every 300 children sees the doctor for this disorder.

What to do?

If a child, who is less than three months old, has a problem with ”crossed eyes” (not always, but occasionally), you should not be worried because the infant is still learning to use his/hers eyes. In cases of occasional squint after that, or if the quint is not occasional but permanent, the infant or a small child should be taken to the doctor. The doctor may tell you that squint is only apparent. Many little children have skin folds across the inner corner of each eye, and the often give the impression of squint.
If your doctor thinks that your child has squint, he will refer you to a child ophthalmologist who will perform examinations to find out the cause of squint and apply the best treatment.

Treatment

If your child has a lazy eye (ambloypia), he/she will have to wear an eye patch as long as possible – at least a few hours a day; this will force the child to use the lazy eye. Such treatment is usually successful only up to age seven. After that age, it is very difficult to treat a lazy eye. If the child is short-sighted or long-sighter, he/she will have to wear glasses. In some children treatment is successful if they are wearing glasses with patches on them (only on one glass or alternately on both), and squint passes after several months.

If the condition is severe, a surgery is performed allow the child to use the lazy eye and to improve the appearance. Surgical procedure strengthens or weakens some muscles that move the eyeball, and the child usually stays for a few days in the hospital. Regardless of the type of treatment, it can be done at a local hospital or clinic. Wearing the patches on the glasses is usually carried out under the control of an orthoptists.

Long-term prospects

Prospects are very good if the treatment starts early. After the age of 7 the correction of squint is still possible, but there is an increasing danger that the lazy eye will gradually become so useless that wearing the patch will not help and the child may eventually become blind.