What causes squinting and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Squinting, also known as strabismus, is a condition where the eyes do not align properly. It can occur in both adults and children, and can have various causes. Squinting can be a temporary or a chronic condition, and it can affect one or both eyes. In this article, we will explore the causes of squinting and discuss different treatment options available.

Causes of Squinting

Squinting can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Genetic predisposition: Some individuals may have a family history of squinting, making them more prone to developing the condition.
  • Refractive errors: Uncorrected nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism can cause the eyes to squint in an attempt to focus properly.
  • Muscle imbalance: Weak or imbalanced eye muscles can lead to squinting as the eyes struggle to align properly.
  • Neurological conditions: Certain neurological conditions, such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, can contribute to the development of squinting.
  • Eye injuries: Trauma to the eye or surrounding structures can result in squinting.
  • Amblyopia: Also known as lazy eye, amblyopia can cause squinting as the brain suppresses the input from one eye to avoid double vision.

Squinting in Adults

Squinting in adults can be a cause for concern, as it may indicate an underlying eye or health condition. If you notice sudden or persistent squinting in adulthood, it is important to consult an eye care professional for a comprehensive eye examination. The causes of squinting in adults can include:

  • Refractive errors: Uncorrected vision problems can lead to squinting in adults, especially when trying to focus on objects at different distances.
  • Eye muscle weakness: As we age, the muscles that control eye movement can weaken, leading to squinting.
  • Eye strain: Prolonged use of digital devices or reading in poor lighting conditions can strain the eyes, causing squinting.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or thyroid disorders, can affect the muscles and nerves responsible for eye movement, resulting in squinting.

Squinting in Children

Squinting in children is relatively common and can occur for different reasons. It is important to address squinting in children promptly to prevent potential vision problems. Some causes of squinting in children include:

  • Refractive errors: Children with uncorrected vision problems may squint to compensate for blurry vision.
  • Amblyopia: Lazy eye can cause squinting in children as the brain suppresses the input from the affected eye.
  • Eye muscle imbalance: Weak or imbalanced eye muscles can lead to squinting in children.
  • Genetic factors: Some children may have a genetic predisposition to squinting, making them more likely to develop the condition.

Treatment Options for Squinting

The treatment for squinting depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Here are some common treatment options:

Glasses or Contact Lenses

If refractive errors are causing squinting, wearing glasses or contact lenses can help correct the vision and alleviate the need to squint.

Eye Muscle Exercises

Eye muscle exercises, also known as orthoptic exercises, can be beneficial in improving eye muscle coordination and reducing squinting. These exercises involve focusing on specific objects or following patterns with the eyes.

Prism Lenses

In some cases, prism lenses may be prescribed to help align the eyes and reduce squinting. These lenses bend light, allowing the eyes to work together more effectively.

Botox Injections

In certain situations, Botox injections may be used to temporarily weaken specific eye muscles, allowing the eyes to align properly. This treatment is typically reserved for severe cases of squinting.


Surgical intervention may be necessary for individuals with persistent or severe squinting. The goal of surgery is to correct the alignment of the eyes by adjusting the position or tension of the eye muscles.

Prevention and Correction

While not all cases of squinting can be prevented, there are some measures that can help reduce the risk or severity of the condition:

  • Regular eye examinations: Routine eye exams can detect refractive errors or other eye conditions early, allowing for timely intervention.
  • Protective eyewear: Wearing appropriate eye protection during sports or activities that pose a risk of eye injury can help prevent squinting caused by trauma.
  • Good lighting and posture: Ensuring proper lighting and maintaining a comfortable reading or working posture can reduce eye strain and minimize squinting.
  • Early intervention in children: Addressing squinting in children promptly can help prevent long-term vision problems and improve treatment outcomes.

In conclusion, squinting can have various causes and can affect both adults and children. It is important to identify the underlying cause of squinting and seek appropriate treatment. With advancements in eye care, there are several treatment options available to correct squinting and improve eye alignment. Regular eye examinations and adopting preventive measures can also help reduce the risk of developing squinting. If you or your child experience persistent squinting, consult an eye care professional for a comprehensive evaluation and personalized treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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