Children can be diagnosed with Amblyopia or Lazy Eye when they are young and is known to affect roughly 3% of the entire U.S population. It’s a condition that develops during infancy and early childhood affects either one or both eyes.
It’s a condition caused by issues between brain and eye nerves when there is a problem with eye alignment, or a significant difference in the ability to see between the eyes. In either case, one eye will perform better than the other. When the brain “ignores” the weaker eye this worsens the condition.
Amblyopia if left untreated, can lead to a permanent loss of vision. It’s a condition where even with the aid of prescription glasses, patients will not be able to see clearly from the amblyopic eye. This makes it difficult to read and play sports thus leading to learning challenges as they grow older.
Signs Your Child May Have Amblyopia
The most common way to identify whether your child has Amblyopia is whether they are experiencing vision problems. Children may be cross-eyed, squint frequently or even tilt their head at odd angles when performing visual tasks. Other symptoms include: poor depth perception, poor eye hand coordination when catching or throwing a ball, clumsy running into things, covering one eye when reading, or not performing well on visual tasks.
The most effective form of treatment is to train the brain at a young age to start paying attention to the weaker eye, and to develop the visual pathway on both sides of the brain to encourage the brain to use the eyes as a team. Treatment options include:
1. Patching or Atropine drops
Covering the “stronger eye” encourages the brain to use the weaker eye. Atropine drops can be used for parents if their child is strongly opposed to wearing an eye patch. These drops will temporarily blur out vision when applied on the stronger eye and help carry out the same purpose wearing a patch would – helping strengthen the weaker eye’s vision. The downside is that your child will be sensitive to light especially outdoors.
Glasses are commonly prescribed when a child is diagnosed with Amblyopia, especially if one eye has stronger vision than the other. In such a case, glasses can help by giving the brain a clearer image on the weaker side so the brain pays more attention to the weaker eye. The shortcoming is that this doesn’t train the brain to use both eyes as a team.
There’s also surgical intervention with cases of Amblyopia caused by a physical obstruction of vision such as those caused by a droopy eyelid or cataracts.
4. Vision Therapy
With vision therapy for amblyopia, eyesight clarity is improved by stimulating the visual pathway on the side of the lazy eye and encouraging the brain to use both eyes together more. With improved eye muscle coordination, eye alignment can also become straighter. In addition, depth perception can be improved via training the sensory function of the two images.
Vision therapy works at any age, but it is recommended for children to get this treatment sooner rather than later to ensure greater longevity of good vision. At the Hollywood Vision Center we have successfully treated thousands of patients with amblyopia or a lazy eye. Dr. Brisco did her post-doctorate Fellowship in Binocular Vision, Strabismus and Amblyopia. Dr. Youngerman did a post-doctorate Residency in Developmental Vision, Strabismus and Amblyopia. We treat both kids and adults with amblyopia and have a pediatric vision and Vision Therapy department.