If the squint is treated early, a child can gain optimal vision. A child who has a squint eye in the first year of life, should ideally be treated as soon as it is noticed by the parent. The aim is to give maximal visual output, and not just align the eyes. At a later age, the visual impairment cannot be rectified and the correction of squint will serve a purely cosmetic purpose. Delay in treatment converts a functional problem into a purely cosmetic blemish. The biggest myth that I fight as a strabismologist is that any surgical intervention should be done when the child is “old enough”.
In spite of repeated warnings, parents and guardians tend to go on the back foot when surgical options are discussed. Also, one needs to understand that not all squints need surgery. Some will need just spectacle correction or require orthoptic exercises to strengthen the muscles that move the eyeballs. Surgery, if required, is done on the muscles that move the eyeballs. The surgery is usually a one-day procedure that does not require any over-night hospital stay. The surgery leaves no visible scars, and is a safe and effective procedure.
Correction of squints, in addition to being valuable for vision, often changes the behaviour of children. I have seen children blossom from introverted personalities to bright, chirpy, extroverted children once the squint is treated. Often, a visible abnormality can have a psychological impact on a child, compounded by peers who tease.
A child with a squint needs a specialist to screen him or her and give the appropriate treatment at the right age before it becomes “just a cosmetic problem”.
Chaudhry is a Senior Consultant, Ophthalmology & Refractive Surgery at Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital, Dwarka, Delhi.