What is Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)?
Lazy Eye or Amblyopia is a condition in which one or both eyes cannot achieve 20/20 vision even with glasses. It occurs in children and requires prompt treatment as soon as it is diagnosed or the vision loss will be permanent.
Signs and Symptoms of Amblyopia
Unless the affected eye is crossed and visually noticed by parent, amblyopia usually has few symptoms as the normal functioning eye compensates for the affected eye. Sometimes a child will close one eye or avoid doing visual tasks on one side. When doing activities requiring good depth perception, the child may perform poorly as both eyes are not working together which is needed for depth perception.
What Causes Amblyopia?
Amblyopia is caused by a poor visual signal from the eyes to the brain during the years when the brain and visual cortex are developing. Amblyopia is actually a brain problem caused by an eye problem. The most common eye problem that causes amblyopia is an unequal glasses prescription between the eyes. Farsightedness is the most common glasses need that causes amblyopia but astigmatism or myopia can also cause amblyopia. Sometimes both eyes are affected, but usually one eye is worse than the other. In some cases the amblyopic eye will turn or become crossed which is called strabismus. Amblyopia must be diagnosed and treated before the brain has fully developed which is usually age eight or nine.
How is Amblyopia Diagnosed?
Amblyopia is sometimes noted by a pediatrician but proper diagnosis requires an examination by an eye doctor with a background in amblyopia and related problems. Vision needs to be accurately checked in both eyes which can be challenging with young patients. A “cycloplegic” vision test will be performed in which the eye’s focusing muscles are relaxed with pupil dilation drops. This allows the full glasses prescription to be realized. If one or both eyes are not correctable to 20/20 then amblyopia is the most likely diagnosis.
How is Amblyopia Treated?
Treatment depends on the type and severity of the condition and must be initiated as early as possible. Full glasses prescription should be worn at all times. If astigmatism has caused the amblyopia, usually just wearing the glasses will resolve the problem within a few months. In any case of amblyopia where there is a significant difference in best corrected vision between the eyes, patching of the better eye is usually required. Patching can be challenging for patient, parent, and doctor. The child must wear the patch at least 3 hours per day while performing a visually stimulating task such as coloring, reading, or a video game. Progress checks with your doctor will be frequent. Full time glasses and patching must continue until at least age eight.
What Steps Should I Take if I Think my Child has Amblyopia?
All children should have their eyes examined by an optometrist by age five. If you think your child has amblyopia, we recommend making an appointment to see Dr. Reinders as quickly as possible before the amblyopia causes permanent vision loss. He has 22 of years of experience treating patients with amblyopia and other related conditions. . All doctors agree that waiting and hoping it will get better is not a prescription for success.