Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye is the lack of central vision development caused by the inability of the eyes to function together. With most occurrences of lazy eye the eyes themselves are typically healthy but the condition cannot be corrected by just the use of prescription eyeglasses. Left untreated amblyopia can result in severe visual disability, even loss of sight in the affected eye.
Lazy eye is the most common cause of sight impairment in children. Because it usually starts as an early childhood developmental problem, the disorder is often difficult to discern. Unless it is adequately treated early on, the chance of full vision restoration is limited. Those that don’t start treatment until adolescence or adulthood don’t usually experience as successful results as those who start treatment when they are young.
This is why it is important to have your child’s vision checked at an early age. According to the AOA (American Optometric Association) children should receive a comprehensive eye exam at six months and again when the child turns three.
What Causes Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)?
Amblyopia may be the result of any condition that affects typical eye and vision development. One common cause is strabismus, an imbalance in the location of the eyes. Strabismus can cause the eyes to cross in (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia) and therefore aren’t able to work together. Amblyopia can also be caused by a condition where one eye is more nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic than the other eye. This condition is called anisometropia. On occasion, amblyopia is the result of other optical conditions such as cataracts or some other structural cause.
How is Amblyopia Treated?
Lazy eye is treated by measures to achieve normal visual acuity to both eyes. Along with the use of prescription eyeglasses or contacts, one of the most common approaches involves making the child use the weaker eye. There are a number of alternatives to occlude the better eye and the treatment plan is chosen based on the individual circumstances and the decision of the optometrist.
Frequently doctors will prescribe a patch used to occlude the strong eye. This forces the patient to use the weaker eye, which promotes proper sight in the weaker eye and helps the visual system in the brain develop properly. However this treatment is dependent upon compliance of the patient to use the patch, which can be a problem with many children.
Some eye doctors choose to use a drug known as atropine. When a drop of atropine is applied to the strong eye, this will temporarily blur the vision and therefore stimulate the patient to prefer the weaker eye.
Additional treatment options include vision therapy also known as orthoptics to help the eyes to coordinate with each other and in some cases a surgical procedure to straighten out the alignment of the eyes. Specialized contact lenses or other sight aides may also be used.
Since amblyopia is caused by a disruption in the proper development of the visual system, the younger the age at which treatment starts, the more chance there is of improvement. Still, there have been many instances where teenage patients completed successful treatment and therefore anyone who suspects they or their child has amblyopia should schedule an appointment immediately with their eye care professional. If you are in need of lazy eye management in North Vancouver, BC, contact us to book a visit. The sooner accurate diagnosis and treatment are started, the sooner we can help restore your eyesight!