What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia (also called lazy eye) is a type of poor vision that happens in just 1 eye. It develops when there’s a breakdown in how the brain and the eye work together, and the brain can’t recognize the sight from 1 eye. Over time, the brain relies more and more on the other, stronger eye — while vision in the weaker eye gets worse. It’s called “lazy eye” because the stronger eye works better.
Amblyopia starts in childhood, and it’s the most common cause of vision loss in kids. 3 out of 100 children have it. The good news is that early treatment works well and usually prevents long-term vision problems.
Amblyopia starts in childhood, and it’s the most common cause of vision loss in kids. Up to 3 out of 100 children have it. The good news is that early treatment works well and usually prevents long-term vision problems.
What are the symptoms of Amblyopia
Symptoms of amblyopia can be hard to notice. Kids with amblyopia may have poor depth perception — they have trouble telling how near or far something is. Parents may also notice signs that their child is struggling to see clearly, like:
- Shutting 1 eye
- Tilting their head
In many cases, parents don’t know their child has amblyopia until a doctor diagnoses it during an eye exam. That’s why it’s important for all kids to get a vision screening at least once between ages 3 & 5.
What are the causes of Amblyopia?
- Refractive errors: One eye might have much better focus than the other. The other eye could be nearsighted or farsighted. Or it could have astigmatism (distorted or blurry vision). When your brain gets both a blurry image and a clear one, it starts to ignore the blurry one. If this goes on for months or years, vision in the blurry eye will get worse.
- Strabismus: This is when your eyes don’t line up the way they should. One could turn in or out. People who have strabismus can’t focus their eyes together on an image, so they often see double. Your brain will ignore the image from the eye that isn’t aligned.
- Cataracts: A cloudy lens inside your eye can make things look blurry. The vision in that eye might not develop the way it should.
- Droopy eyelid (ptosis): A sagging eyelid can block your vision.
Risk factors for Amblyopia:
A child might be more likely to have a lazy eye if they:
- Were born early (premature)
- Were smaller than average at birth
- Have a family history of amblyopia or other eye conditions
- Have developmental disabilities
What is the treatment for Lazy eyes or Amblyopia?
It’s important to start treatment for amblyopia as soon as possible. Depending on the cause, it might involve:
- Correcting any underlying vision problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. Most kids with amblyopia also need glasses to help their eyes focus. Learn about LASIK eye surgery and lazy eye.
- Surgery, if a cataract is blocking light from their eye or if strabismus keeps their eyes from moving together the way they should.
- Wearing a patch over the strong eye to force their brain to use the weak one. At first, your child will have a hard time seeing. Their vision will get better, though it might take weeks or months. After that, they won’t have to wear the patch all the time. But sometimes, when kids go back to using both eyes, they lose some vision in the weak eye. If that happens, they might have to wear the patch again.
- Eye drops with a medication called atropine, which blurs the strong eye so your child won’t need to wear a patch. This also forces their brain to use the weak eye.
- A Bangerter filter worn over the eyeglass lens of the stronger eye to blur their vision so they have to use the weak eye
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