Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, can occur as a result of a number conditions that prevent the eye from properly focusing. When amblyopia occurs, there is a reduced ability of one eye to communicate properly with the brain; this results in the brain favoring the other eye.
Although the condition is more common in children, amblyopia can also affect the vision of adults. Typically attributed to a number of common causes, childhood amblyopia is treatable, but it is important to first understand what the condition is and why it occurs.
How Does Amblyopia Occur?
While amblyopia is essentially the inability of the eye to focus clearly, the causes are much more detailed and widespread. According to the National Eye Institute, amblyopia is caused by a number of conditions, including:
- Strabismus, or the misalignment of the eyes. Strabismic amblyopia is the most frequent cause of amblyopia. In this situation, lazy eye occurs as a result of the brain bypassing the visual information being received from the eye that is misaligned.
- Cataract, or the clouding of the front part of the eye. This form of lazy eye is known as deprivation amblyopia and results from light being unable to enter and focus in the eye.
- Blurry vision, cause d by the eye’s inability to focus light on the retina, often referred to as being nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatism. This form of lazy eye is known as refractive amblyopia and occurs when the brain disregards the information being received from the eye that has the refractive error; over time, the condition develops as a result of underutilization of the weaker eye.
Is Amblyopia a Common Cause of Visual Impairment?
With nearly 200,000 US cases per year, amblyopia primarily presents itself during the early childhood years. Additional research indicates that amblyopia affects roughly 2 out of every 100 children and is the most common contributor to visual impairments experienced by children. An estimated 2% of the US population has a visual condition related to lazy eye .
How Is Amblyopia Treated?
When detected early, treatment of lazy eye is fairy simple and uses patching or eye drop therapy.
Patching simply requires the patient to wear a patch over the stronger eye for a set amount of time, usually ranging from a few weeks to several months. Since the dominant eye is covered, patching forces the brain to use the weaker eye; this results in the strengthening of the weaker eye.
Eye Drop Therapy
When using eye drops to treat amblyopia, atropine drops are placed in the dominant eye. This results in a temporary blurring of normal vision in the dominant eye. Like patching, amblyopia treatment for lazy eye forces the brain to rely on input received from the weaker eye; over time, this causes the weaker eye to become more comparable in strength to the stronger eye.
Unless successfully treated during childhood, amblyopia will usually persist into adulthood.
How Can I Tell If My Child Has Amblyopia?
Since the condition often happens only in one eye, lazy eye often goes undiagnosed in many children – especially infants and toddlers.
In some cases, you might notice a baby or infant’s eyes appear to be crossed or misaligned. This is often an indication of strabismus; in this case, the child should be scheduled for an exam by an eye doctor specializing in children’s vision.
Another indication of amblyopia can by how your child responds when one eye is covered. Children experiencing lazy eye might fuss or complain of “blurred vision” when the dominant eye is covered.
Since amblyopia develops at an early age, we recommend using the EyeQue Insight to test and track visual acuity so parents can stay on top of their children’s vision health. By testing individual eye’s visual acuity performance (20/20 or less), EyeQue Insight allows for the early detection and subsequent treatment of amblyopia.