What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia, which usually begins early in a child’s life, is the most common cause of visual impairment for children. More casually known as “lazy eye,” amblyopia is the disruption of nerve pathways between the brain and the eye in which one eye lacks proper stimulation. In some cases, this can cause one eye to appear offset or misaligned with the other.
As eyesight formation develops over the beginning years of a child’s life, more than 200,000 cases of amblyopia are diagnosed each year in the United States. While hearing your child has lazy eye can be concerning, treatment can reverse the condition. However, it is crucial for children’s eye health that early eye examines are performed to detect conditions like amblyopia before further progression can occur. Amblyopia is best backtracked when discovered before age 7. Treatment can still be effective in improving the vision of older kids and adults, but to truly fix a lazy eye, treatment must be initiated before the brain is done mapping what the eyes see — usually around age 9.
(An optometrist can diagnose if a child is suffering from one of the multiple forms of lazy eye.)
What are the Causes of Lazy Eye?
So what causes the misinformation transfer between brain and eye nerves? There are three main root sources for lazy eye.
- Strabismus – The most common cause of amblyopia, strabismus, (or an eye turn), causes the brain to ignore the vision of one eye in order to avoid double vision. This causes amblyopia to develop.
- Refractive Errors – Having uncorrected refractive error (myopia, hyperopia, or astigmatism) can cause the brain to pick the eye that is easier to use and “ignore” the other thus preventing proper eye-brain development
- Deprivation – A cloudy eye, caused by a congenital cataract for instance, can obstruct light from properly entering the eye and disallow correct eye development.
While lazy eye affects roughly 3 percent of the U.S. population, it can sometimes be difficult for parents and caretakers to identify a glaring issue with their child’s eye health. If gone untreated, amblyopia can ultimately lead to permanent vision loss and loss of proper depth perception.
We recommend bringing your child in for their first eye exam at 6-months-old. In the meantime, look out for these symptoms of lazy eye:
- Misaligned eyes
- Crossed eyes
- The crying or fussing of a child when one of their eyes is covered
- Holding books closely or getting very close to the television
(It is recommended to have your child’s first eye exam at 6-months-old.)
How is Lazy Eye Treated?
Lazy eye treatment varies by case and age. As mentioned, it is best and most successfully treated when discovered early on in a child’s life.
For example, refractive issues that cause lazy eye might be fixable through the addition of corrective glasses or contact lenses alone. . Sometimes with amblyopia patching is required which is when the healthy eye is covered with an eyepatch or dilation drop regularly. By blacking out the vision of the “good eye,” the brain is required to repair the visual input of the eye with amblyopia.
If you can’t get your child to buy into looking like a pirate for multiple hours in the day, other methods have been developed to help ensure healing occurs between the brain and eye nerves. Prosthetic contact lenses and atropine eye drops have shown to successfully help treat lazy eye in the same manner as eyepatches.
In strabismic amblyopia cases, surgery is sometimes required to fix the misalignment of the affected eye. This is followed by using an eyepatch over the non-surgically repaired eye and even participating in vision therapy led by an optometrist. These are exercises that help strengthen the muscles surrounding the eyes, and aid in recruiting the visual system to function properly. Generally surgery is considered a last resort.
In deprivation amblyopia congenital cataracts are almost always the culprit that cloud and deprive vision. The only way to correct a cataract is through cataract surgery. It is vital that the child is fitted with a surgically implanted intraocular lens (IOL), contact lens, or eyeglasses to ensure normal visual development can continue after the cataract surgery.
To recap, these are the ways lazy eye is treated:
- Prosthetic lenses
- Atropine eye drops
Fix Lazy Eye With Professional Help
Amblyopia is a treatable eye condition and should be addressed as early as possible. We understand protecting you and your child’s eye health is important to you. We are here to provide the proper diagnosis, prescription, and ultimately treatment, for our families at Family Focus Eyecare. We understand how clear vision is a necessity to enjoying life.
Schedule an appointment with us today, and together we can help ensure that your eyes are both happy and healthy.