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Diagnosing a squint

NHS ChoicesMedical Reference

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Squints are often detected in children during routine eye checks.

These are usually carried out:

  • at birth or by the time your baby is 14 days old
  • at around six to eight weeks of age
  • before your child starts primary school or during their first year

However, if any of these checks do not happen or if you are concerned about your or your child's vision, speak to your GP.

After an initial assessment, you may be referred to an orthoptist. An orthoptist is an eye specialist trained to assess problems relating to eye movements and how the eyes work together.

Sight tests

Different tests can be used to help diagnose a squint and assess the level of vision. These will vary according to your age, but may include:

  • looking at a light
  • matching letters and pictures
  • reading a letter chart
  • looking at visual targets at different distances, first with one eye covered and then the other

Other tests may also be needed to determine whether glasses are needed.

The light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye (retina) and the nerve that carries visual messages to the brain (optic nerve) will also be examined to make sure there are no other problems.

In most cases, eye drops will be used to widen the pupils before the eyes are examined. This will make it easier for the ophthalmologist to study the back of the eyes.

Sight tests are free for children under 16 years of age. Use our pages to find opticians in your local area.

Medical Review: January 31, 2013

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