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Auckland DHB Ophthalmology Services

Public Service, Ophthalmology

Squints (strabismus)

Squints happen when one eye stops working with the other eye, usually causing the eye to turn inward or outward (less commonly upward or downward).

Types of squint include:

  • Esotropia/Convergent squint - one eye turns inwards towards the nose.
  • Exotropia/Divergent squint - one eye turns outwards, away from the nose.
  • Constant squint - one eye turns in all the time.
  • Intermittent squint - one eye turns only some of the time.

What causes squints?

The following are possible causes:

  • Long or short sight that is not corrected. The strain as your child tries to see clearly, may cause a squint
  • Eye muscles that do not work properly (less common)
  • In many cases there is no known cause. However, there may be a family history of squints.

It is important to diagnose and treat a squint because if left untreated it may result in a permanent impairment of vision.

How are squints treated?

There are different types of squints and therefore different treatments. Each patient is assessed and treatment is advised on an individual basis. Children very rarely grow out of squints but the squint can change with age.

The treatment for squints may include:

  • Glasses: many childhood squints are connected with uncorrected long, or more rarely short, sight. Your child may need to wear glasses to see clearly. Glasses may sometimes help reduce the size of the squint.
  • Patching: may be needed during childhood to improve the vision in the squinting eye. Patching does not cure the squint.
  • Exercises: may help to control some types of squints.
  • Prisms: may help to control some types of squint and can help patients with double vision.
  • Surgery: may be required. If your Ophthalmologist/Orthoptist thinks this will help your child then they will discuss this with you.

Some patients require a combination of these treatments. 

This page was last updated at 2:45PM on November 4, 2021.