What is a squint?
A squint is where the two eyes don’t point in the same direction. The condition often runs in the family and affects one in 50 children under five years old. Squinting can also happen if the nerves to the eye muscles, or the eye muscles themselves, are not working properly. This is more common in adults and can cause double vision.
Squinting can be serious because it prevents the eyes working together to judge distance and depth (3-D vision). Squinting can also cause the vision in the affected eye to fail to develop properly (known as a lazy eye). If your child has a lazy eye, your surgeon will usually recommend treatment to improve the sight in the affected eye before surgery.
Benefits of correcting a squint
A successful operation should mean your child’s eyes appear to move together. If your child had a divergent squint (where the affected eye looks outwards towards the corner of the eye), their 3-D vision may improve.
Special glasses or contact lenses can be used to control squinting by helping the eyes to focus. Sometimes placing a patch on the good eye can train the affected eye to work, so that vision develops normally in both eyes. These measures don’t straighten the eyes, but can help to improve the sight in the affected eye.
Double vision can often be controlled by wearing glasses with special prism lenses. These alternatives will be tried before surgery is considered. However, sometimes surgery gives the best long-term results the sooner it is carried out.
The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about 40 minutes. 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 in the surface membrane (conjunctiva) of the eye. 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.
For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant.
Possible complications of squint corrective surgery:
- Some pain is common with all operations
- Bleeding after surgery, which should be mild
- Infection, which can result in blurred vision or even permanent loss of vision
- Continued or worse squinting. Your child may need further surgery
- Double vision (in children over the age of five). This usually settles. If the problem continues, your child may need treatment with special glasses, injections or further surgery. Rarely, double vision can be permanent and your child may need to wear special glasses or a contact lens that completely blocks vision from one eye.
*This is not a definitive list and symptoms will vary with each patient. Please ask your consultant for more information.
Your child should be able to go home the same or following day. Your surgeon will tell you when your child can return to normal activities. They should avoid swimming or strenuous activities until you have checked with your surgeon. It is important to look after your child’s eye as you are told, to reduce the risk of complications. Your child will need regular follow-up appointments with your surgeon and eye specialist. Most children make a good recovery.
For more information, speak to your consultant.
Paying for the operation
Correcting a squint costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.