Squint in Children
Squint is misalignment of the eyes, where the two eyes are pointed towards different directions. The misalignment may be constant for a few, while it may be intermittently occurring for some others. The deviation of the eye may be in any direction - inward, outward, upward or downward.
Squints in children are associated with a lot of myths and beliefs. Some feel that the squints will correct themselves as the child grows, others believe that it is a cosmetic problem that needs to be corrected at the appropriate (read marriageable age, especially in a girl child).
Little do they realize that having both eye looking together in one direction is not just cosmetic perfection, but is required for good vision as well. If an eye is misaligned it can lead to the images from that eye being suppressed by the brain, thereby causing poor development of vision. After early years of life, visual development in the brain ceases to occur. If the child is not treated at the appropriate time, a condition called amblyopia or lazy eye occurs, which eventually leads to maldevelopment and therefore low vision.
If the squint is treated early, a child can gain optimal vision. At a later age, child visual impairment cannot be corrected and the correction of squint will serve a purely cosmetic purpose. Delay in treatment coverts a functional problem into a purely cosmetic blemish.
We all need 3D vision to function- to assess depth, distance, and speed. If the eyes are not perfectly aligned, the brain cannot see in 3D. Unfortunately, this faculty is also developed in the very early years of life. If we do not develop 3D vision (stereoscopic vision) in the first few years, we never will.
Squint can also be an indication of other problems in the eye; which may range from simple need for spectacles to other squint causes of low vision like cataracts; or sometimes grave problems like tumors in the eye. A child with squint needs a specialist to screen him/ her and give the appropriate squint treatment at the right age….before it becomes “just a cosmetic problem”.