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Correcting a squint (child)

3-minute read

What is strabismus?

Strabismus (or ‘squint’) is where one of the eyes points in towards the nose (convergent) or out towards the ear (divergent). Sometimes one eye may point up or down.

How does strabismus happen?

Strabismus in children is usually related to how their eyes focus. The condition often runs in the family and affects 1 in 50 children under 5 years old.

Strabismus can also happen if the nerves to the eye muscles, or the eye muscles themselves, are not working properly.

Illustration showing the muscles of an eye.
The muscles of the eye.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Your child’s eyes should appear to move together. If your child had a divergent squint, their binocular vision may improve.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

Glasses or contact lenses can help the eyes to focus.

If one eye is 'lazy', placing a patch on the good eye can train the affected eye to work so that vision develops normally in both eyes.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour.

Depending on the type of squint your child has, your surgeon will need to tighten or loosen one or more of the eye muscles.

Your surgeon will make a small cut on the surface membrane of the eye (conjunctiva). They will separate one or more eye muscles from the surface of the eyeball. Using small dissolvable stitches, your surgeon will reattach the muscles, making them tighter or looser than they were before, depending on the correction that needs to be made.

How can I prepare my child for the operation?

Your child should try to maintain a healthy weight. They will have a higher risk of developing complications if they are overweight.

What complications can happen?

General complications of any operation

  • bleeding
  • infection
  • allergic reaction to the equipment, materials or medication

Specific complications of this operation

  • continued strabismus
  • worse strabismus
  • double vision, in children over the age of 5
  • a slipped or lost eye muscle, muscle scarring or making a hole in the eye with a needle

Consequences of this procedure

  • pain

How soon will my child recover?

They should be able to go home after a few hours.

Your surgeon will tell you when your child can return to normal activities. Your child should not swim or do strenuous exercise until you have checked with your surgeon.

Most children make a good recovery.

Summary

Strabismus surgery should make your child’s eyes point in the same direction. Sometimes the operation gives better long-term results the earlier it is performed.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

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Last reviewed: September 2022


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