A squint is also known as strabismus or crossed eyes (and in colloquial Nigerian terms…half past 4 eyes). It refers to a condition where the eyes are misaligned and point in different directions. While one eye may point straight, the other eye points in another direction. It could be outward (divergent squint), inward (convergent squint), or upwards/downwards (vertical squint).
Causes of Squints
While it is more common in young children, squint can occur at any age and there are a number of causes. In some cases, people are born with it, while others develop one later in life. This condition can also be hereditary.
In some cases, it is caused by the eye attempting to overcome a vision problem, such as:
- short-sightedness – difficulty seeing things that are far away
- long-sightedness – difficulty seeing nearby objects
- astigmatism – where the front of the eye is unevenly curved, causing blurred vision
Other (rarer) causes include:
- Some infections, such as measles
- Some genetic conditions or syndromes, such as Down’s syndrome
- Developmental delays
- Cerebral palsy
- Other problems with the brain or nerves
In Children, a squint could sometimes be a symptom of a rare type of childhood eye cancer called retinoblastoma. As such, it’s important to see a GP to rule out this condition.
Treatments and surgery for a squint/strabismus
Treatment is usually recommended to correct a squint, as it’s unlikely to get better on its own and it could cause further problems if not treated early on. The main treatments for a squint are:
- Glasses – these can help if a squint is caused by a problem with one’s eyesight, such as long-sightedness (especially in children.)
- Eye exercises – exercises for the muscles that control eye movement may sometimes help the eyes work together better.
- Surgery – this involves moving the muscles that control eye movement so the eyes line up correctly. It may be recommended if glasses are not fully effective on their own.
- Injections into the eye muscles – these weaken the eye muscles, which can help the eyes line up better. But the effect usually lasts less than 3 months.
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