To achieve optimal vision, the eyes and the brain need to operate as a team. In instances when this process doesn’t function properly, a condition called amblyopia, or lazy eye, can occur. With the majority of occurrences of lazy eye the eyes themselves are typically in good health but visual acuity cannot be achieved by just glasses. If untreated lazy eye can result in severe visual disability, including loss of sight in one eye.
Lazy eye is the most frequently diagnosed vision disorder in children. Because it typically starts as an early childhood developmental issue, the condition can be challenging to diagnose. Early diagnosis and treatment improve the likelihood of full vision restoration. Those that don’t begin treatment until adolescence or adulthood often find that it takes much longer and is less effective.
This is why it is important to have your child’s vision checked at an early age. According to the AOA (American Optometric Association) children should have a comprehensive optometric examination at the age of six months and again when the child turns three.
Causes of Lazy Eye
Amblyopia may be caused by a number of conditions that affect typical eye and vision development. The most common cause is strabismus, a condition where the eyes are improperly aligned. Such misalignment can cause the eyes to cross in (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia) and therefore aren’t able to work together. Sometimes amblyopia is caused when one eye is more nearsighted, farsighted, or astigmatic than the other eye. This is the result of a condition called anisometropia. On occasion, lazy eye is caused by other optical conditions such as cataracts or another structural impairment.
Treatment for Lazy Eye
Amblyopia is treated by efforts to achieve proper vision to both eyes. Along with the use of prescription lenses, one of the most common approaches involves forcing the individual to use the weaker eye. There are a number of ways to occlude the stronger eye and the treatment plan is selected depending on the patient’s circumstances and the decision of the optometrist.
Frequently doctors will prescribe patching, where a patch is used to occlude the stronger eye. The patient is then forced to use the weak eye, which stimulates vision in the underdeveloped eye and helps the visual system in the brain develop properly. Nevertheless this treatment largely depends on compliance of the patient to use the patch, which can be a factor especially with children.
Some eye doctors opt to use a drug known as atropine. When applied to the stronger eye, atropine drops temporarily impair the vision to stimulate the use of the other eye.
Alternatives to these treatments include vision therapy to train the eyes to coordinate with each other and sometimes surgery to straighten out the alignment of the eyes. Specialized contacts or other sight aides are also sometimes used.
Because lazy eye is the result of a disruption in the visual process, younger patients often experience more success with treatment. Nevertheless, there are many factors that are involved and therefore anyone who thinks they or their child has amblyopia should consult immediately with their eye care professional. If you are in need of lazy eye consultation in Old Bridge, NJ, be in touch to schedule an appointment. Amblyopia doesn’t get better on its own so don’t delay in starting to repair your eyesight!