Mala went to meet her friend Vijaya in her house. The two friends were meeting after nearly 2 years. The last time that they met, Vijaya’s son was nearly a year old.
Vijaya greeted Mala with joy and offered her coffee and snacks. The two friends then sat down to catch up with what had happened in their lives over the past two years. While they were chatting, Vijaya’s son Vijay ran into the house from their neighbours’ house. Vijay was a chubby, lively boy of three now and on seeing a new face in the house, hid behind his mother and peeped out at Mala. Vijaya proudly talked about the latest antics of her son in his play school. As they were talking, Mala noticed that one of the eyes of the child was not straight and was turned outwards. She enquired with her friend whether she had consulted an eye doctor regarding the difference in the direction (squint) of the eyes. To this Mala said that everyone in her family felt that, this squint was a lucky symbol for her son and advised her not to get it treated.
On hearing this Mala was taken aback. How can her friend be so ignorant of the problems that the child would face because of the squint as he grows up? She turned to Vijaya and said, “Do you know what is squint? Squint is a misalignment of the two eyes so that both the eyes are not looking in the same direction. This misalignment may be constant, being present throughout the day or it may appear sometimes and the rest of the time the eyes may be straight. It is a common condition among children. It may also occur in adults. It is very important that the exact reason for the squint is found out. The squint can be because you child requires glasses, or because of weakness of muscle or sometimes even because of problems inside the eye like cataract that reduces the vision”. On hearing this Vijaya was both surprised and scared. She said “Do you really mean to say that Vijay has a problem in his eye and that is why it is not straight? Will this squint affect his vision?”
Mala replied “Vijaya. Our eyes are like a camera. They receive the light from objects, for example, this apple and send the message to the brain. The brain is like a computer. It receives the message, assembles it correctly and interprets the light as an apple. As we have 2 eyes, information goes from both of them to the brain. Only if both eyes are straight, can both of them look at the same apple. Suppose one eye is straight and the other is turned outwards or inwards, it will see a different image. The brain will therefore receive 2 different images – one from the eye that is straight and another from the eye that is turned. The brain, being very intelligent, will ignore the message that is coming from the squinting eye.”
Vijaya was amazed that a simple turning of the eyes has so much happening behind it. She asked “What will happen if I do not take Vijay to the doctor? Will he lose his vision?” Mala replied “If you allow his eyes to remain as they are without treating them, he will developed what is called ‘amblyopia’ or ‘lazy eye’. The brain, as I said, will continue to ignore the image coming from the squinting eye. After sometime the vision in that eye will be lesser than normal. It is just like our legs for example. Suppose you had fever and were in bed for 1 week without walking or using your legs. After 1 week when you try to walk you will feel very weak and have difficulty. Imagine if you are in bed for 1 year? Similarly the longer that you allow your son to have the squint without treatment, the poorer his vision will become.”
Vijaya asked “Is there a specific age when I should take him for treatment?” Mala replied “The earlier you take him for a check up the better for him. You should understand that it is not only the squint that has to be treated. You also have to treat his ‘lazy eye’ so that the vision can improve. It is said that the younger the child the better will be the outcome of treating the lazy eye and better will be the vision improvement. Remember that by leaving him without treatment, the squint will not disappear. A delay in the treatment will decrease his chances of getting better alignment of the eyes and better vision”.
“Will he need an operation?” asked Vijaya. “Only an ophthalmologist, that too a squint specialist can tell whether he needs an operation. I read somewhere that there are certain types of squint that can be corrected with glasses. Some squint will require surgery. Some types can be corrected with a special type of glass called prism glasses. But only your squint specialist will be able to decide what is the right treatment for your son” said Mala.
Vijaya hugged Mala and thanked her profusely. She said “Mala! If you had not come today and told me about squint, I would have allowed Vijay to grow up without correcting the problem. What a big mistake that would have been!!! The future of my son is at stake and I did not realize it. I kept thinking that squint means luck. Only today I realize that squint is the worst bad luck because it reduces the vision in the eye. Thank you very much my friend. I will take my son immediately for a check up to a Squint Specialist. I hope I am not too late to save his vision.”