What is amblyopia?

Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normal sight during early childhood. It is sometimes called "lazy eye." It commonly affects one eye but may also involve both eyes. It is caused by lack of use of one eye, when brain 'favours' one eye over the other.

What causes amblyopia?

Newborn infants do not have fully developed visual system at time of birth. During first 9 years of childhood years, their visual system changes quickly and their sight continues to develop. Any insult to the child's vision during this time period can lead to amblyopia.

Causes of amblyopia:

  • Squint (Crossed eyes)When child has squint, the brain ignores the image from the deviating eye to avoid double vision. This causes poor visual development of the deviating eye leading to amblyopia.
  • Unequal Refractive error ( Anisometropia)- In this condition, the two eyes have different refractive errors. When this is the case, the brain will use the better-seeing eye and essentially "turn off" vision from the weaker eye and thus eye with greater refractive error gets amblyopic. An early treatment by giving the right glasses can correct this problem by allowing both eyes to work equally together.
  • Sensory (Stimulus) deprivation- Any form of stimulus deprivation to either one or both eyes in early childhood may lead to amblyopia. This could be because of ptosis (Drooping of upper lid) or  cataract

Lazy Eye Symptoms

It is not easy to recognize amblyopia (lazy eye) in children. A child may not be aware of having one stronger eye and one weaker eye . If child has a misaligned or squinting eye then parents may bring the child for eye checkup. The vision of the child can be tested by the ophthalmologist by special tests.

Treatment for Amblyopia

Early diagnosis increases the chance for a complete recovery.Lazy eye correction or treatment should begin as soon as possible so that the child’s visual system can develop properly . The aim is to stimulate the brain to use the suppressed eye before permanent change has occurred, so that it gets a chance of normal development.
The earlier the amblyopia is detected and the treatment started, the better are the results. If an amblyopia that is not treated by 10 years of age , then chances of recovering the vision are poor.

Corrective lenses, prisms and/or contact lenses are often used to treat amblyopia.

The treatment involves 'forcing' the brain to use the weaker eye and thus stimulating its visual development. This is done by patching the better eye. The schedule of patching is decided by the ophthalmologist depending upon the degree of amblyopia and the age of child.
If your ophthalmologist finds a cataract or other problem in the eye that is causing the visual problem, surgery may be required to correct the problem that is causing amblyopia.

Amblyopia a big handicap

Amblyopia is a handicap because it can limit the occupational and leisure activities you can do. Activities requiring good depth perception may be difficult or impossible to perform.