How to Prevent “Lazy Eye” and Amblyopia
The term “lazy eye” is frequently used to describe one eye that does not see as well as the other. This condition is referred to by eye care providers as amblyopia, when one eye or both eyes have reduced vision that is not attributed to a problem with the health of the eye. Amblyopia must be detected and treated as early as possible, or it can result in permanently reduced vision and can cause a wide variety of vision-related problems, from poor depth perception to difficulty reading. In order to prevent the development of amblyopia, it is important for children to be seen by an optometrist for a pediatric eye examination.
What Causes Amblyopia?
A “lazy eye” can develop when the eye and the brain do not properly communicate. If the connection between the eye and brain is not fully developed during childhood, when the visual system is growing and making important networks, then one eye may not be able to grow to its full visually potential and the brain will begin to ignore input and visual information from that eye.
There are three main factors can put an eye at risk for developing amblyopia. The most common cause is the presence of a strabismus, when one eye has a tendency to turn outwards or inwards. This can result in strabismic amblyopia, where the brain ignores visual signals from the misaligned eye in order to prevent double vision, and the connection between the brain and the eye is not properly developed. Amblyopia can also arise from significant differences in refractive error between the two eyes, called refractive amblyopia. In refractive amblyopia, one eye is much more nearsighted or farsighted than the other, so the brain pays less attention to the blurry vision being transmitted by that eye. The final form of amblyopia, known as deprivation amblyopia, occurs when something is blocking light and visual input from entering the eye. This can be something like a droopy eyelid or a congenital cataract.
Protecting Your Children from “Lazy Eye”
Because amblyopia typically only affects the vision in one eye, children may not initially show any symptoms and you may not know that they are at risk. It is important for your children to receive comprehensive eye examinations so their optometrist can determine if any risk factors, such as an eye turn or unequal prescriptions, are present. The practice guidelines outlined by the American Optometric Association recommend eye examinations at about 6 months, 3 years, and 5-6 years of age so the doctor can see the child several times through the developmental period. If at any of these exams the doctor identifies risk factors for amblyopia, they will intervene with treatment options.
Treatment for amblyopia depends on the underlying risk factors. For example, children with an eye turn may be encouraged to perform “patching,” which covers the better-seeing eye and forces the misaligned eye to straighten out and communicate with the brain. For children with a risk of refractive amblyopia, glasses will likely be prescribed and will need to be worn full-time. If risk factors for amblyopia are identified and corrected early, the eyes and the brain still have the potential to fully form connections and there is a reduced risk of permanently reduced vision.
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At Nittany Eye Associates, you will receive only the highest quality eye exam with our eye doctors in the State College, PA and surrounding areas. Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an appointment online with one of our highly trained optometrists. The next time you need an evaluation for lazy eye or amblyopia be sure to visit Nittany Eye Associates where we always put the care of you and your family first at our convenient locations in State College, Matilda, Spring Mills, Tyrone, and Lock Haven PA areas.