A squint, also called strabismus, is where the eyes point in different directions. It's particularly common in young children, but can happen at any age.

One of the eyes may turn in, out, up or down while the other eye looks ahead.

Close-up of a a child’s eyes and nose. Their left eye is turning in (a squint) and their right eye is looking ahead.

This may happen all the time or it may come and go.

Treatment is usually recommended to correct a squint, as it's unlikely to get better on its own and it could cause further problems if not treated early on.

When to get medical advice

Get advice if:

A GP, health visitor or local opticians service can refer you to an eye specialist for some simple tests and treatment if necessary.

Treatments and surgery for a squint

The main treatments for a squint are:

If your child has a lazy eye as a result of their squint it may need to be treated first.

Treatment for a lazy eye usually involves wearing a patch over the unaffected eye to help improve vision in the affected eye.

Problems a child may have if a squint is not treated

It's important not to ignore a squint that happens all the time or develops after 3 months of age.

It could lead to further problems if left untreated, such as:

Surgery can help improve the alignment of the eyes even if a squint has been left untreated for a long time, but any vision problems may be permanent if they are not treated at a young age.

Causes of squints

The exact cause of a squint is not always known.

Some people are born with a squint and others develop one later in life. Sometimes they run in families.

In children, a squint is often caused by the eye attempting to overcome a vision problem, such as:

Rarer causes of a squint include:

A squint can also sometimes be a symptom of a rare type of childhood eye cancer called retinoblastoma. Take your child to see a GP if they have a squint to rule out this condition.

Page last reviewed: 2 May 2023
Next review due: 2 May 2026