What is Amblyopia
Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” is a condition that affects the vision of children’s eyes. According to the NHS, up to three out of every hundred children have it. In some cases, children can even become blind in one eye. When a child has amblyopia, their brain focuses on one eye more than the other, virtually ignoring the lazy eye. If the effected eye doesn’t receive proper stimulation, the nerve cells responsible for vision do not mature as they should. The good news is, that early treatment has shown a good response, and usually prevents long-term vision problems.
What causes Amblyopia
One of the most common eye problems is strabismus, where one or even both eyes wander inwards. The straighter look becomes dominant when the eyes don't line up together. The misaligned eye doesn't focus properly, and the brain ignores it, leading to amblyopia. The vision of the straight eye stays normal because the eye and its connection to the brain are working without issues.
Some children, but not all with amblyopia also have crossed or wandering eyes. Amblyopia can occur due to an anatomical or structural problem that interferes with vision, or blocks it entirely, such as a droopy eyelid or a cataract.
Other causes of amblyopia are severe far-sightedness (hyperopia), near-sightedness (myopia), or astigmatism. The brain never gets used to seeing a clear image, resulting in amblyopia in one or both eyes. Different vision strengths in each eye, known as anisometropia, can cause amblyopia. When one eye sees more clearly than the other, the brain ignores the blurry eyesight.
Symptoms of Amblyopia
Amblyopia is not always obvious. The condition often goes undetected until a child has an eye test. So, every child should have early, regular vision screening.
You may notice symptoms. A child with amblyopia may:
● Bump into things on a particular side a lot.
Treatments of Amblyopia
Many children with unequal vision, or anisometropia, do not know they have an eye problem because the stronger eye and the brain compensate for the shortfall. The weak eye gets progressively more vulnerable, and amblyopia develops. If there’s a vision problem causing amblyopia, the doctor may prescribe glasses, contact lenses, or recommend surgery.
The next step is to retrain the brain and force it to use the weaker eye. The more the brain uses it, the stronger it gets. Treatments include:
Wearing an eye patch on the stronger eye:
By covering up this eye with a stick-on eye patch (such as a plaster or bandage), the brain must use the weaker eye to see. Some kids only need to wear the patch for 2 hours a day, while others may need to wear it throughout the day.
Using special eye drops for the stronger eye:
A once-a-day decline of the drug atropine can temporarily blur near vision, which forces the brain to use the other eye. This treatment works as well for some kids as an eye patch, and some parents find it easier to use (as younger children may try to pull off eye patches).
After your child starts treatment, their vision may improve within a few weeks. But it will probably take months to get the best results. After that, your child may still need to use these treatments from time to time to stop amblyopia from coming back.
Amblyopia treatment is usually less effective in adults compared to children. It’s essential to start treating children with amblyopia early — the sooner, the better. Kids who grow up without treatment may have lifelong vision problems.
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