Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
Amblyopia, commonly referred to as lazy eye, occurs when one eye wanders inward or outward and seems to be out of sync with its partner. Eye doctors will check for this condition during a regular eye exam, especially in children. A complete eye exam is recommended for children between the ages of 3 and 5 to monitor eye health and diagnose any vision problems such as lazy eye as early as possible.
Lazy Eye in Children
Does your child hold things close to see? Squint? Or have eyes that seem to wander or cross?
If you think your child may have a lazy eye, it is important to start treatment of amblyopia as soon as possible. Treatment of lazy eye is most successful when the child is younger than 7 years old. Only about half of children who receive treatment from age 7-17 respond to treatment.
Causes of Lazy eye
Depending on the cause of lazy eye, there are three diagnosed types of amblyopia: strabismus amblyopia, refractive amblyopia, and deprivation amblyopia.
Strabismus amblyopia is caused by a muscle imbalance between the eyes. This means one eye is significantly stronger than the other, leading to the weak eye becoming what we call a “lazy eye.” Amblyopia can often be treated by intentionally blurring or blocking vision for the stronger eye, using an eyepatch for example, to strengthen the weaker eye or lazy eye.
Causes of refractive amblyopia include farsightedness (hyperopia), astigmatism, and nearsightedness (myopia) to a lesser extent. Essentially, refractive lazy eye is caused by an imbalance in sharpness of vision between the eyes, also known as a refractive problem. Glasses or contact lenses are often used to treat refractive amblyopia. Sometimes children with lazy eye can experience a combination of strabismus and refractive amblyopia, and the best way to catch and treat this condition is to attend regular eye exams with your eye doctor.
Finally, deprivation amblyopia is lazy eye caused by a problem with one eye such as cloudiness (cataracts). Deprivation amblyopia is the most severe type of lazy eye and can lead to permanent vision loss and requires urgent treatment, especially in infants.
Lazy eye can be caused by a variety of environmental factors, but your child is at high risk for developing a lazy eye if they were born prematurely, small at birth, have existing developmental disabilities, or if you have a family history of lazy eye.
Symptoms of Lazy Eye
· Wandering eye
· Eyes that do not seem to work in unison
· Poor depth perception
· Shutting one eye
· Head tilting
Lazy eye treatments
Your eye doctor may recommend different treatments for lazy eye depending on the cause and type of amblyopia. As with any health issue, the best treatment will treat the source of the problem, thus some treatments may work for one type of lazy eye and not for another.
Some potential treatments include corrective eyewear such as glasses or contact lenses, an eye patch or Bangerter filter to weaken the stronger eye and exercise the weaker eye, or surgery.
Your eye doctor may recommend surgery if the lazy eye is caused by droopy eyelids, cataracts (deprivation amblyopia), or strabismus.
It is important to note the difference between a treatment and a cure for conditions like lazy eye. Proper treatment of lazy eye can improve vision within weeks, but that does not mean it is necessarily cured. Make sure to monitor your child for recurrences of lazy eye as close to 25% of children who have been treated for lazy eye will see a recurrence and require additional treatment.
If a recurrence of lazy eye occurs, see an eye doctor to start treatment again immediately.
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