Squint (strabismus) is not a sign of good luck

In some parts of India, and in some communities, it is believed that an eye that is deviated brings you good luck. Hence children with strabismus or squint eye are not brought for an eye examination. Sometimes they present to the eye doctor well into adulthood.

If we examine this myth closely, we begin to understand that it may have arisen in the olden days when not much was possible as treatment for squint. In order to avoid a stigma because the person with squint looked different, this myth may have been circulated and perpetuated and continues to be exist even today.

Having a squint can lead to many problems. The biggest concern is that a constantly deviated eye may happen as a result of a disease in the eye that has led to poor vision. In other words, the eye deviates secondary to the vision loss. These could range from a cataract presenting in childhood, anomalies of the optic nerve and/retina and rarely a tumor originating in the retina called a retinoblastoma.

A constantly deviated eye can also lead to a lazy eye or amblyopia. In other words, the squint can be the cause of poor vision. This is due to rivalry between the inputs from the two eyes at the brain level. The inputs from the ‘fixing’ eye are preferred and those from the squinting eye are ignored or suppressed. This eventually leads to reduction in vision which can be profound.

Presence of a constant squint also implies that the person has no depth perception or 3D which is the finer quality of vision one obtains, when both eyes are used together. Hence the person with a squint cannot pursue certain professions that require depth perception (more on this in another article). It also makes it difficult to enjoy 3D movies/games.

Studies have also shown that there are emotional and psychosocial consequences of having a squint, such as poor self-image, negative social image etc. These are studies from different parts of the world, and the findings are similar. Strabismus (squint) surgery has been shown to have a positive effect on these.

Hence, one can see that there are many reasons why having a squint is NOT a sign of good luck. A child with a squint needs a thorough examination by a pediatric ophthalmologist/strabismologist as soon as it is identified.