What is amblyopia (lazy eye)?
Amblyopia (also called lazy eye) is a type of double vision that occurs in only one eye. It creates when there is a breakdown in how the mind and eye cooperate, and the cerebrum can’t perceive sight from one eye. Over time, the brain depends more and more on the other, stronger eye – while vision in the weaker eye gets worse.
It’s called a “lazy eye” because a stronger eye works better. But people with amblyopia are not lazy, and they cannot control the way their eyes work.
Amblyopia begins in childhood and is the most common cause of vision loss in children. Up to 3 in 100 children have it. The good news is that early treatment works well and usually prevents vision problems in the long term.
Symptoms of amblyopia
Signs and symptoms of lazy eye include:
- An eye wandering in or out
- Eyes that don’t seem to work together
- Impaired depth perception
- Squinting or closing the eye
- Head tilt
- Abnormal results from the vision screening tests
Sometimes a lazy eye does not appear without an eye examination.
Lazy eye causes
Doctors are not always aware of what is behind some cases of amblyopia. There may be reasons:
- Refractive errors: One eye may focus much better than the other. The other eye could be myopic or farsighted. Or it may have astigmatism (distorted or blurry vision). When your brain gets a blurry picture and a clear picture, it starts to ignore the blurry picture. If this continues for months or years, vision in the cloudy eye will worsen.
- This is when your eyes don’t line up properly. One can turn inward or outward. People with squints cannot focus their eyes together on an image, so they often see weakness. Your brain will ignore the misaligned image of the eye.
- A cloudy lens inside your eye can make things appear blurry. Vision in that eye may not develop as well as it should.
- Droopy eyelid (ptosis): A sagging eyelid can block your vision.
How is amblyopia diagnosed?
Your child’s pediatrician or vision program at school will examine three features of your child’s eye health:
- Do your child’s eyes light up all the way?
- Do both eyes see well?
- Are the eyes moving properly? Are they allied?
If there appears to be a problem (something blocking light, uneven vision, or anxiety about the movement), the pediatrician or school nurse may recommend seeing an eye specialist such as a children’s ophthalmologist.
The ophthalmologist will:
- Check your baby’s vision, eye alignment, and movement
- Check for health by looking at the front and back of the eye
- Measure how well each eye is focused
Sometimes problems can be found before a child has a squint. However, in most children with amblyopia, vision begins to get worse by the time they visit the doctor.
Factors associated with an increased risk of developing lazy eye include:
- Premature birth
- Family history of lazy eye
- Small size at birth
- Developmental disabilities
How is lazy eye treated?
Treating fundamental eye conditions is the best method to treat amblyopia. In other words, you need to help your damaged eye develop normally. Early treatment measures are straightforward and may incorporate glasses, contact focal points, eye patches, eye drops, or vision treatment.
The sooner you get treatment, the better the result. However, recovery may still be possible if amblyopia is diagnosed and treated as you get older.
- Glasses/contact lenses: If you suffer from amblyopia due to nearsightedness or farsightedness, or you suffer from astigmatism in one eye, corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses may be prescribed.
- Eye patch: Wearing an eye fix over your prevailing eye can help fortify your more vulnerable eye. Your primary care physician will probably propose you wear the fix one to two hours every day, contingent upon the seriousness of the amblyopia. The patch will help develop the area of the brain that controls vision.
- Eye drops: The drops can be used once or twice a day to cloud your vision in your healthy eye. Like an eye fix, this urges you to utilize your more fragile eye more. This is an alternative to wearing a vamp.
- Surgery: If you have crossed eyes or eyes pointing in opposite directions, you may need eye muscle surgery.
Although amblyopia can in some cases lead to poor eyesight or blindness, it is usually very treatable, especially when caught early. Talk to the doctor if you think you or your child may experience amblyopia.
Complications of amblyopia
- Blindness: If not treated, the patient may lose vision in the affected eye. This vision loss is usually permanent. According to the National Eye Institute, lazy eye is the most common cause of poor vision in one eye in middle-aged youth and adults in the United States.
- Eye turn: Strabismus can become permanent, as the eyes are not aligned properly.
- Central vision: If amblyopia is not treated during childhood, the patient’s central vision may not develop properly. The problem may affect their ability to do certain tasks.