What is “Lazy Eye” and Amblyopia?
A “lazy eye”, otherwise known as amblyopia, is a commonly discussed topic among the general public. At times, it is not entirely understood what a lazy eye is referring to or what the causes and symptoms of it are. Below, an introduction to amblyopia is discussed.
What are the Symptoms of Lazy Eye?
Amblyopia is associated with decreased vision in one or both eyes that cannot be corrected with a spectacle or contact lens and has no other obvious causes. Other aspects of vision may also be affected, such as the ability to pick out one shape from a crowd of many.
The Causes of Lazy Eye
There is a variety of reasons that amblyopia can develop but the main cause is due to lack of visual stimuli to the back of the eye at an early age. The period of time that amblyopia can develop in children varies among individuals but averages to be before the age of seven. At this time, it is important for the child to receive clear visual information to allow the brain to build the necessary connections to perceive an image as clear later on in life.
Deprivation amblyopia refers to causes for disruption to vision due to something blocking the pathway of light into/ out of the eye. This can include a cataract at birth, trauma, corneal/ retinal disease, etc.
Strabismic amblyopia refers to when the child is born with, or develops early on, an eye turn. This prevents one of the eyes from being lined up properly and this eye in turn is not receiving the stimuli needed for neuronal growth.
Refractive amblyopia is when a child is only able to perceive a blurry image due to a need for glasses at an early age. Farsighted children are more likely to develop amblyopia than nearsighted children. This type of amblyopia also includes meridional amblyopia, which means that there would be blur in one direction (i.e. horizontally), regardless of glasses correction.
Providing the child with the best vision possible is the main focus of treatment for amblyopia. This can mean clearing up the path that light travels through the eye (i.e. cataract surgery), giving the right glasses, or lining up the eyes. The key for treatment is the age of the patient and consistency of the practices required. The younger the patient, typically, the better the results. Often, the child will be encouraged to use their “lazy eye” if they have only one eye that isn’t seeing as well. This can often be done by patching the “good eye” for a couple of hours a day or by using eye drops.
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