“Lazy eye”, also known as amblyopia, is a condition of the eyes in which one eye is weaker than the other, has worse vision, and/or tends to wander while the other eye functions normally. Here’s what you need to know about this condition.
Causes of “Lazy Eye”
Amblyopia is a result of one eye developing more slowly than the other, or remaining underdeveloped after birth. It usually shows up at birth or within the first several years of a child’s life. Amblyopia can occur as a result of a congenital defect, developmental disability, or family history. The eye develops important connections with the brain during a child’s first years, and there are several things that could happen during that time that could cause amblyopia to develop.
Please keep in mind that if you’re the parent of a child with amblyopia, it’s not your fault, nor does it point to your child having other health issues. This is actually a fairly common, fully treatable condition. Furthermore, amblyopia is easily managed with simple treatments, especially if it’s caught at a young age.
Muscle imbalance (Strabismus)
Sometimes a child’s eye muscles don’t develop correctly at birth or shortly after birth, which can cause their eyes to move in different directions. One eye may be focused straight ahead, while the other moves back and forth or up and down on its own. Strabismus can result in double vision and other sight problems and should be treated as soon as possible.
Refractive/vision sharpness issues
Vision issues such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism aren’t always the same in both eyes. One eye may be significantly more affected than the other. If this issue isn’t properly corrected, it can lead to the development of amblyopia.
Cloudiness and obstruction
If a child is born with a cataract or some other form of eye defect or visual impairment in one eye, amblyopia can develop simply because that eye doesn’t work as well as the other one.
Signs of Amblyopia
Amblyopia may be obvious from just looking at a child’s eyes, but it isn’t always. Unlike adults, children may not complain or even be aware of poor vision in one eye so it can be easily missed. Here are some ways you can tell if your child may be having difficulty with their sight.
- Issues with depth perception (e.g. misjudging distances or running into things at an age when they should be able to properly see)
- One eye moves or twitches independently, or is consistently looking in a different direction than the other
- Cloudiness in the lens of one eye
- Head tilting
- Squinting or shutting one eye often
- Abnormal results from vision tests
Treatment for Amblyopia
Amblyopia can turn into a serious vision problem if left untreated, and can affect how a child functions in school and in everyday life. Fortunately, eye doctors will often catch these issues within the child’s first few eye exams, and there are several ways they can remedy the issue.
If the issue causing amblyopia is a result of weak eye muscles, eye doctors will often have the child wear an eye patch over the healthy eye to help the problem eye grow stronger and eventually match the strength of the healthier eye.
If your child’s eyes have drastically different refraction issues, one lens in a pair of glasses or contacts can be given a different prescription to help both eyes work together as they should.
If your child has an obstruction or other medical problem within their eye, your ophthalmologist can perform surgery to correct the issue. This is the most extreme course of action and is not commonly required to treat a lazy eye.
At Piedmont Eye Center, we’re here to help your child see as well as possible from as early an age as possible, and our pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Ganser, would love to help! To make an appointment for your child, contact us today.