If you suspect that your child has a turn in their eye the first person to raise it with is your public health nurse.
If you suspect that your child has a turn in their eye the first person to raise it with is your public health nurse. It tends to be something that begins while your child is under a year old and the public health nurse will be able to give their opinion and organize any necessary referrals. They may recommend that you speak to your GP but they will get the ball rolling.
A turn in the eye is when one or both eyes look in a different direction. This is often called a “squint” and in the medical world, it is referred to as a strabismus. It is extremely common and many children simply grow out of it. In some cases, your GP may refer you to see an ophthalmologist and they may put the turn down to the shape of your child’s nose or face in general. It can sometimes be something that corrects itself naturally as the child develops.
There are many different types of squints. In some cases, one of the eyes may turn out or in and in others, it turns up or down. For some children the turn is in just one eye and in other cases it affects both eyes. The frequency that it happens also varies greatly. Some parents notice the squint all day every day while others only notice it during specific situations or when their child is tired. In my son’s case, the turn tends to happen when he is a fair distance away from us and we call his name or get his attention. When he looks back at us one eye wanders in a completely different direction. In general day to day life we may not notice it very often but in this particular situation, it is blatantly obvious to see.
Depending on your child’s age and the severity of the squint you may be referred to see an optometrist as well as an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) to begin a package of care. In many cases, the squint will not go away by itself and a number of treatments may be recommended to help improve it or to prevent it from worsening.
In some cases, glasses may help a squint however a squint does not always affect a person’s eyesight. For example, in my son’s case, he has perfect vision but a very obvious squint in certain situations. In the cases where glasses are prescribed the squint may be caused or worsened by a problem with your child’s eyesight. Dealing with this issue may correct or help the squint as the eyes will have to work less on certain things. It is very common for a squint to result from the eye attempting to overcome a vision issue which you may have been completely unaware of until now.
Patching may also be recommended. In this case, your care team may recommend that your child wears an eye patch on the unaffected eye for a certain number of hours per day and a certain amount of days per week. The idea is that when the “good eye” is covered and not in use the eye that has the squint will have to work harder to see and focus. In working harder the muscles are strengthened and it can often really help with a squint.
In some cases the recommended treatment is surgery. It is unlikely that your child will have the surgery until they are at least five years of age due to the risk of the issue coming back and the delicate issue of operating on the eye of such a young child. During this surgery, the doctor will manipulate the eye muscles that control the eye’s movements. The eyes will usually be sore after the surgery and your child may have a redness and itchiness in one or both of their eyes. They will be advised to stay off school for a couple of days and a follow-up appointment will be organized to monitor and assess the success of the procedure.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.