Your little bundle of joy is precious. The moment you first hold them in your arms, you know you are going to put your best foot forward when it comes to them. Hence, it is natural for parents to obsess over even minor anomalies in the baby’s development. Not everything should be a cause for worry but it is is always better to take precautions.
You would probably know by now that the baby’s vision develops properly only after a few months from birth. Till then, you may notice their eyeballs going a little cross or in different directions.
Squinting in babies is common and you may find this to be the case in the initial three or four months of their life. It’s normal for their eyes to wander or cross every now and then as they are just trying to get their eyes to coordinate. The condition corrects itself as they try to work their eye muscles more and more.
If this does not happen naturally as the baby grows, squinting will need immediate attention.
So, how do you identify if your baby has a squint in the eye?
Let’s find out and know how a timely intervention can help.
When one or both the eyes of your little one don’t line up or wander out of focus, the condition is referred to as squinting. In medical terms, the condition is known as Strabismus.
The eyes may turn inward (Esotropia), outward (Exotropia), up (Hypertropia), or down (Hypotropia) and is usually a result of the eye muscles being weak.
When an eye or both don’t align the right way, it’s the straighter eye that is dominant in terms of function even though the vision in the other one remains good enough. This happens when the connections with the brain don’t form the right way and the focus becomes wayward.
Squinting is often genetic but that may not always be the case. It can also happen to children with no family history in squinting, indicating a possible vision problem. Premature babies or those with a low birth weight are at a higher risk of developing a squint in the eye. Disorders like Downs syndrome and cerebral palsy can also be the reason behind strabismus.
While the intensity may vary from one child to another, Strabismus needs timely intervention. Even if an eye or both eyes go wayward intermittently and not constantly, there still could be an underlying problem.
Squinting in babies is a major concern and should be taken care of immediately if you notice any of the following:
• If one or both of your baby’s eyes appear turned in, out, or crossed most of the time.
• If the eyeballs seem to wander more often.
• If the baby’s eyes do not move together or if one eye is not lined up with the other.
• If the eyes stay in an unaligned position for long durations.
• If the reflection of light from the camera flash appears in a different position on the iris of each eye every time you click photographs using flash.
There are cases when an infant’s eyes may appear crossed when it looks to the left or right, even when they’re aligned. This could be ‘pseudostrabismus’, which is usually an optical illusion created by a wide nasal bridge or large eyelid folds. This ‘false strabismus’ may disappear as your child grows older.
A simple examination by the doctor will help in distinguishing pseudostrabismus from actual strabismus.
Normally, the brain receives two similar pictures, one from each eye. In case the child’s eyes are misaligned, these pictures will not match and the brain will not be able to merge them. Hence, the brain will ignore one of the pictures and if it continues to shut off the pictures from one eye, the vision of that eye will get weaker. Such a condition is termed as Amblyopia or ‘lazy eye’.
When a squint is left unattended, it can develop into Amblyopia that can ultimately result in loss of vision.
Strabismus needs immediate intervention and will not go away with age. Treatment becomes necessary to preserve vision, straighten the eyes, and make them work in coordination.
Your ophthalmologist will prescribe glasses so that each eye is tuned to see clearly. Patching of the good eye may also be recommended so that the brain starts taking more notice of the images from the misaligned eye. Eye exercises, eye drops, and surgical correction may also be prescribed to remove the squint.
The key to correcting Strabismus or Amblyopia is early diagnosis and treatment. You wouldn’t want your little one to carry this condition into their later years and experience complete vision loss.
The tips mentioned in this article do not substitute the clinically-correlated advice a practising ophthalmologist may have for you. Please seek professional advice immediately if you notice the wayward movement of eyeballs in your child.