Can Contact Lenses correct my child's squint?
If you have a child suffering from the relatively common visual disorder squint, then you might be wondering whether contact lenses could help his/her condition.
While contact lenses could play a role in a treatment protocol, they usually aren’t enough to completely reverse squint symptoms. On top of wearing high-quality contact lenses or glasses, Optometrists often recommend squint patients practice at-home eye exercises to avoid developing serious conditions like a lazy eye.
In this post, we’ll share vital information on squint and what you could do to help anyone afflicted with this disorder. As you’ll soon see, there are many simple, proactive steps you could take to help squint sufferers see clearly.
Start With The Basics: What Is Squint?
Officially known as strabismus, squint is a relatively common visual disorder characterised by slight eye misalignment. Children with squint tend to have one eye that can focus very well and another that cannot. Often, squint patients have what looks like a “crossed eye” pointing towards the nose, but the misaligned eye could also focus too far up, down, or towards the ear.
In addition to complaints of blurred vision, common warning signs of strabismus include headaches, eye pain, and eye fatigue. Once parents notice any of these warning signs, they should bring their child to an optometrist ASAP.
It’s now estimated 3 percent of UK children are born with squint every year. Although it’s possible for adults to develop squint symptoms, generally this only happens as the result of direct trauma, a stroke, or some kind of neurological condition.
What Are The Most Common Treatments For Squint?
After a patient is diagnosed with squint, optometrists have many tools at their disposal to help reverse this disorder. Of course, the specific treatment protocol your child receives will depend on his/her specific symptoms. Always consult your optometrist for personalised advice on how to correct your child’s strabismus symptoms.
That being said, here are the two most common treatments prescribed to squint patients.
1. Wear Corrective Eyewear
Many children who have squint also have some type of refractive error such as myopia or hyperopia. If this is the case with your child, then your optometrist will prescribe either eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct his/her vision.
Usually, children with squint have no issues wearing well-fitted prescription soft lenses, but there are a few specialised glasses with prism lenses that can control the degree of the squint, and these cannot be included in contact lenses. Your Optometrist might prefer using prism lenses to help gently train your child’s weaker eye.
Whether or not your child needs prism eyeglasses depends on the severity of their squint. As always, ask your optometrist what s/he recommends for your child’s condition.
2. Practice At-Home Eye Exercises
On top of corrective eyewear, doctors will often teach squint patients a few at-home eye exercises. Be sure your child understands the correct technique and practices the exercises as prescribed for optimal results.
One of the most popular exercises for squint sufferers involves holding a pencil out in front of the eyes and focusing on the eraser. The patient then slowly brings the pencil closer and closer to their face until it becomes fuzzy.
Another commonly taught exercise involves attaching a string to a door handle with three differently coloured beads in the centre. Children are asked to focus on each of the beads and tell their optometrist what they see. If their eyes are focusing properly, then all three coloured beads should form an “X” pattern. Children who don’t see the “X” must change the placement of the beads until they achieve visual clarity.
A convergent squint will usually correct just as well with contact lenses as with spectacles. However, if vision is bad in the squinting eye, it may not straighten with spectacles or with contact lenses.
The convergent type squint is caused by the need, due to congenital focus error, of excessive efforts in very early infancy to focus far objects and this is almost impossible to do without corresponding eye convergence. (The focus and convergence are linked.) This leads to 'crossing' of the visual axes and so the vision of one eye has to be 'suppressed' whilst the other continues to be pointed at the object which would otherwise be seen as double. (Divergent squint is the opposite, there being no need to focus near things the convergence is suppressed leading to an eye pointing outwards and this does not correct so well).
Relieving the need to focus usually relieves the tendency to convergent squint at least as well as with spectacles and in some cases, people will relax and accept more focus help from contact lenses than from spectacle lenses.
The sooner doctors begin a squint treatment protocol, the better chance your child has of achieving eyes that are straight, with both eyes seeing very well. Although you could still treat strabismus in its later stages, the outcomes can be worse with often an intractable squint, that may need surgery to correct and straighten, or wiht permanently reduced vision in one eye - known as amblyopia. Commonly known as “lazy eye,” amblyopia patients have one eye that’s become so weak that it can no longer accurately see clearly, even with corrective eyewear.
It is still possible to correct amblyopia, but the treatment protocols are usually time-consuming and involve wearing an eye patch every day. Without prompt treatment at this stage, however, children run the risk of permanently losing vision in their weak eye.
Besides the visual consequences, children who grow up with untreated squint often struggle academically and socially. Obviously, these issues could take a psychological toll over time, resulting in depression and anxiety later in life.
Bottom line: whenever you notice warning signs of squint, please see your Optometrist quickly to avoid developing these issues.
Got More Eye Care Questions? We Have The Answers
We’re all about helping our patients understand their eye care options and that’s why we’ve put together this helpful online portal full of educational resources. Please feel free to look through our Educational Portal if you have any further questions on contact lenses and eye care in general. You can click on this link to find our Education Portal’s homepage.
Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 28 Apr 2015, Last modified: 22 Apr 2020