Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

What is Amblyopia

Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normal sight during early childhood. It is sometimes called “lazy eye.”

When one eye develops good vision while the other does not, the eye with poorer vision is called amblyopic. Usually, one eye is affected by amblyopia.

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The condition is common, affecting approximately two or three out of every 100 people. The best time to correct amblyopia is during infancy or early childhood. Parents must be aware of this potential problem if they want to protect their child’s vision.

When Should Vision Be Tested?

It is recommended that all children have their vision checked by their family Eye Doctor at or before their fourth birthday.

New techniques make it possible to test vision in infants and young children. If there is a family history of misaligned eyes, childhood cataracts or a serious eye disease, an Eye Doctor (ophthalmologist) can check vision even earlier than age three.

What Causes Amblyopia?

Amblyopia is caused by any condition that affects normal use of the eyes and visual development. The three major causes are:

Strabismus (misaligned eyes)

Amblyopia occurs most commonly with misaligned or crossed eyes. The crossed eye ‘turns off’ to avoid double vision and the child uses only the better eye.

Unequal focus (refractive error)

Refractive errors are conditions that are corrected by wearing glasses. Amblyopia occurs when one eye is out of focus because it is more nearsighted, farsighted or astigmatic than the other. The unfocused (blurred eye) ‘turns off’ and becomes amblyopic. The eyes can look normal but one eye has poor vision. This is the most difficult type to detect and requires careful measurement of vision.

Cloudiness in the normal clear eye tissue or lid droop

An eye disease such as a cataract (clouding of the eye’s natural lens) or ptosis (lid drooping) may lead to amblyopia. Any factor that prevents a clear image from being focused inside the eye can lead to the development of amblyopia in a child. This is often the most severe form of amblyopia.

How is Amblyopia Treated?

To correct amblyopia, a child must be made to use the weak eye. Patching or covering the good eye, often for weeks or months usually does this. Even after vision has been restored in the weak eye, part-time patching may be required over a period of years to maintain the improvement.

Glasses may be prescribed to correct errors in focusing. If glasses alone do not improve vision, then patching is necessary. Occasionally, amblyopia is treated by blurring the vision in the good eye with special eye drops or lenses to force the child to use the amblyopic eye.

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Amblyopia is usually treated before surgery to correct misaligned eyes, and patching is often continued after surgery as well.

If your Eye Doctor finds a cataract or other abnormality, surgery is required to correct the problem. After surgery, glasses or contact lenses can be used to restore focusing, while patching improves vision.

The weaker eye must be made stronger in order to see normally. Prescribing glasses or performing surgery can correct the cause of amblyopia, but your Eye Doctor must also treat the amblyopia itself.

If amblyopia is not treated, several problems may occur:

  • The amblyopic eye may develop a serious and permanent visual defect
  • Depth perception (seeing in three dimensions) may be lost
  • If the good eye becomes diseased or injured, a lifetime of poor vision may be the result

Your Eye Doctor can give you instructions on how to treat amblyopia, but it is up to you and your child to carry out this treatment.

Successful treatment mostly depends on your interest and involvement, as well as your ability to gain your child’s cooperation. In most cases, parents play an important role in determining whether their child’s amblyopia is to be corrected.

Interested in having Kovach Eye Insitute treat your or your child’s amblyopia? Contact one of your three locations to make an appointment.