Amblyopia (or lazy eye) is a common vision problem in children that can impair learning and development. According to the Mayo Clinic, lazy eye is the leading cause of poor vision in children, so it's a condition that many parents will need to contend with. If you're worried that one of your children may have amblyopia, or you want to understand what you can do about the condition, learn more about the causes, symptoms and treatment options of this common disorder.
Lazy eye occurs when something forces a child's vision to blur or causes the eyes to cross. Any situation where the brain sees one blurry image and one clear one will mean that the brain starts to ignore the blurry image. Over time, this can cause amblyopia in one eye.
The main causes are:
- Strabismic amblyopia. An imbalance in the muscles that position the eyes, causing them to cross in or turn out. The eyes cannot function together properly, and the condition deteriorates over time.
- Deprivation amblyopia. Lazy eye will sometimes occur in one eye if there is another problem causing blurry vision. For example, a cataract in the lens will mean that the brain starts to ignore the image from this eye, leading to amblyopia.
- Refractive amblyopia. Nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism in one eye can all lead to refractive amblyopia because the two eyes simply cannot work properly together.
A doctor will need to conduct a thorough eye exam to diagnose lazy eye and work out the cause. As well as a physical examination, he or she may use a number of tests to identify the problem.
Parents can sometimes see the early signs of amblyopia in their children, but only a doctor can properly diagnose some forms of the condition. You may start to notice that one eye wanders in or out, or that the eyes just don't seem to work well together. You may also note certain vision problems. For example, children with the problem often have poor depth perception, or start to squint a lot.
It's important to talk to a doctor as soon as you notice any signs of the problem. Eyesight tests are a common part of primary care in younger children, but it's important to stay vigilant. The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus advises that treatment success increases when you start to deal with the problem at an early stage.
According to the nature and severity of the problem, doctors can diagnose a number of treatment options for children with amblyopia. These include:
- Corrective eyewear. You can sometimes stop lazy eye if you deal with the other vision problem, such as nearsightedness.
- Eye patch. An eye patch over the stronger eye forces the brain to manage vision more completely. Children over the age of four should normally wear the patch for three to six hours a day.
- Eye drops. Atropine can blur the vision in the stronger eye, forcing the child to use the weaker eye.
- Surgery. A surgical solution can often repair the eye muscles. This approach is also effective if the child has a cataract.
Vision therapy often combines some of these types of treatment to train the brain to align the two eyes properly. For example, the child may use a patch for short periods, as well as carrying our brain training activities and exercises. Some children may also need vision therapy after surgery.
Lazy eye is a common problem in children, but, with an early diagnosis and the right treatment options, doctors can often completely cure the condition over time. Talk to your doctor for more advice, and make sure you find the right solution for your child. Click for more info.