Strabismus (Squint Eyes), is a condition where the eyes do not work as a pair. In other words, both the eyes point in different directions. While one eye looks forward, the other eye usually tends to focus on other directions. This eye is also known as the weaker or lazy eye. In the majority of the cases, this condition is infantile. It affects young children, and, in some cases, it also tends to develop in adults. While effects are the same in both children and adults, the causes vary.
Squints can be:
In children and adults who suffer from Strabismus, both the eyes focus on different directions. As a result, two images are sent to the brain. Since images communicated are entirely different from each other the brain fails to merge them as one complete picture. In such cases where the eyes do not work as a pair, adults suffer from what is commonly known as double vision. While children also suffer from double vision, their brains can adapt by blocking the image sent by the lazy eye and processing only the one sent by the normal eye. This process of the brain blocking the image of the lazy eye is called Suppression. Even though children adapt as they grow, the vision in the lazy eye deteriorates with time due to lack of usage and causes Amblyopia. In addition to amblyopia, a squint can also lead to reduced binocular vision in children. The condition arises due to a child’s inability to view 3-dimensional images using the weaker eye.
It is extremely important that squint is corrected at an early age immediately after identification, as early as 6 months of age. This can prevent irreversible loss of vision. It can be cured using a combination of treatment/procedures. Some of the common treatment procedures for Strabismus in children are:
While Occlusion therapy cannot cure children of their squint, it can still help improve vision in the amblyopic eye. This procedure involves, in addition to wearing glasses, covering the good the eye with a patch to improve vision capability in the weaker eye. This patch creates a better transfer of imagery between the weaker eye and the brain. Having said that, patching is effective only if it is done in early childhood.
In many cases, the squint can be cured by simple, but effective eye exercises. They help strengthen the ability of both eyes to work as a pair. Exercises are more effective in older children suffering from intermittent squints and are prescribed in addition to either prescription glasses or surgery.
This is the most frequent technique required in children. Various surgical techniques are available and they can be employed to straighten different types of squint. Surgery should be performed by a pediatric ophthalmologist who is an expert in this field.
Botox is used only to cure certain kinds of squints, and, if even after multiple surgeries have failed. Botox injection weakens the eye muscles thereby better aligning both the eyes. Administration of Botox is carried out under general anesthetic.
The above treatments are highly effective if the squint is identified band treated at an early age. If identified early, most children develop long term vision in both the eyes. It is particularly important that children undergo periodic eye evaluations to ensure their eyes are healthy. An eye specialist or an optometrist will guide you with the procedure and frequency of such evaluations.