What is amblyopia or lazy eye ?
Amblyopia is the lack of development of vision in one eye that is not directly caused by any eye health problem. It is not correctable with lenses alone.
Who is likely to develop amblyopia ?
Amblyopia is the result of poor early development, and as such, occurs before the age of six. It is estimated that 2-4% of children under the age of six have amblyopia.
What causes amblyopia ?
Amblyopia results from a large difference in the prescription between the two eyes or it can occur when strabismus (crossed eyes) is present. It can also occur when something is interfering with the clarity of the various components of the eye. This causes blurred vision in the affected eye. Because the image that is sent to the brain from the affected eye is poor, the brain will ignore this eye. As the brain ignores the eye over time, very few connections are made between the brain and the eye. It is this lack of connections between the brain and the eye that causes the eye to become amblyopic. This is why lenses alone cannot correct the problem.
Is the amblyopic eye blind ?
The amblyopic eye is never blind in the sense of being entirely without sight. Amblyopia mostly affects the central vision. Peripheral vision is still almost normal.
What are signs / symptoms of amblyopia ?
Most of the time, there are no symptoms of amblyopia. Since only one eye is affected, the other eye usually has reasonably good vision and tends to take over all visual tasks. Unless the good eye is covered, the person will rarely notice the poor vision in the amblyopic eye. Sometimes amblyopia is associated with strabismus (crossed eyes), which may be noted as a sign/symptom.
How is amblyopia diagnosed ?
A comprehensive optometric examination can determine the presence of amblyopia. The earlier it is diagnosed, the greater the chance for a complete recovery. That is why it is important to have your child's vision examined at six months of age, again at age 3 and then regularly thereafter.
How is amblyopia treated ?
The most important part of amblyopia therapy involves covering the good eye so that the brain is forced to recognize the amblyopic eye. This will lead to the development of more connections between the brain and the amblyopic eye and improve vision. This is most commonly done by placing a patch in front of the good eye. Patching the stronger eye is necessary to stimulate and strengthen the amblyopic eye. If patching is not tolerated well or is unsuccessful, then prescription eye drops are sometimes used in the good eye as a way to blur its vision temporarily. Corrective lenses may also be necessary.