What is strabismus or squinting?

Squinting is an abnormality in the state of the eyes so that the eyes can no longer focus on the same point.

  • With the most common form of squinting, one eye (or sometimes both eyes) will turn towards the nose (=convergent strabism);
  • However, the eye can also turn outwards (=divergent strabism).
  • There are also cases where the eyes turn upwards or downwards.

What are the causes of strabismus?

Squinting usually begins during childhood, but it can also occur in adults (e.g. with thyroid gland disorders, after a trauma, and such like).

Squinting is not only an aesthetic problem. In the case of children squinting can cause a lazy eye (amblyopia).

If squinting begins at an early age, the child will rarely suffer from double vision, but it will eliminate the image from the eye which turns away. That eye will not develop properly, sight will deteriorate, and the eye becomes lazy.

And so, a lazy eye has poor vision and in children (up to +/- 7 years) can only be treated successfully by putting a patch on the healthy eye and/or prescribing glasses.

Various factors can play a part in the cause of squinting e.g. hereditary factors, hypermetropia, and such like.

How is strabismus or squinting treated?

When eye doctors tackle strabism, they treat the lazy eye first. It is not until a later stage that they suggest an operation to treat squinting.

In the cases of some squinting children, sooner or later the eyes have to be straightened out.

This is done by strengthening or weakening the optic muscles which are responsible for eye movement. Usually, an operation is necessary for both eyes. This operation is done under local anaesthetic in the day hospital.

In +/- 80% of cases one operation is enough, but sometimes a second operation may be necessary.