Brian Mohney, M.D., the Mayo Clinic pediatric ophthalmologist who led the study, and colleagues examined the medical records of 407 patients with strabismus (misaligned eyes) and compared them with records of children matched for age and sex but with normal eye alignment.
They found that kids with eyes that diverged (exotropia) were three times more likely to develop a psychiatric disorder than were the control subjects, while those with inward deviating eyes (esotropia) showed no increase in the incidence of mental illnesses.
Mohney said the results could help alert physicians to potential problems in their paediatric patients.
"Pediatricians and family practice physicians who see children with strabismus should be aware of the increased risk of mental illness. They can hopefully be alert to the earliest signs of psychiatric problems in patients with exotropia, so they can consider having them seen by a psychologist or psychiatrist," said Mohney.
The study is published this month in a Paediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Paediatrics.