Amblyopia, or lazy eye, is a condition in which the visual acuity in one eye doesn’t fully develop, usually beginning from birth towards early childhood. Once the vision is lost, glasses or contacts cannot correct it. The amount of potential vision loss in the amblyopic eye varies from patient to patient, but at the least, the vision is worse than in the other eye.
If undetected and left untreated, the vision in that eye will never fully develop as the brain simply “turns off” that eye and relies instead on the eye that can see better.
Amblyopia is treatable if caught in early childhood. This is when treatment has the best chance of success, when the eye is still developing. After age 10, the success rate of treatment decreases significantly and the loss of vision is not reversible. For this reason, educating parents is the key to successful treatment of amblyopia.
A Simple Test to Check Your Child’s Vision:
With both eyes open, it’s often difficult to detect vision problems since the good-seeing eye just takes over. However, if you put your hand in front of one of your child’s eyes and they squirm, try to remove your hand or begin to cry, it’s likely you’re covering their good-seeing eye and amblyopia may be present. Of course, this should not be a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam by a pediatric ophthalmologist or optometrist. If you suspect any problems with your child’s vision, you should consult a pediatric eye care specialist. In the absence of vision problems, routine eye exams are recommended beginning at 6 months old and then at 2-year increments.
Treatment Options for Amblyopia:
Treatment for amblyopia depends on the underlying cause. The two most common causes are a misalignment of the eye (strabismic amblyopia) which often presents as an eye turning in or out, or a significant difference in the refractive error between the eyes (anisometropic or refractive amblyopia). A lesser common cause is something obstructing light entering the eye, such as a congenital cataract.
To improve vision in the poorer-seeing eye, you must force the brain to use that eye. One of the most common ways to accomplish this is by putting an eye patch over the better-seeing eye. The number of hours per day needed and the duration of the patch therapy vary between patients and eye care providers. However, wearing an eye patch for as little as 2 hours per day can be effective in some patients. As you can imagine, convincing a child to wear an eye patch for any length of time is no easy task. It takes a concentrated effort by both their eye doctor and their parents to ensure compliance. Consulting a pediatric ophthalmologist can be helpful as they are more familiar with the needs of children. They also carry specialized products made with children in mind, such as eye patches with custom designs that children might be more willing to wear.
As hard as it can be during the course of the treatment, it’s well worth the effort. When parents are diligent in ensuring their child’s compliance, it’s not unusual for an eye to improve from barely being able to recognize the “Big E” on the eye chart to achieving almost 20/20 vision, albeit often with the aid of glasses or contact lenses. Another slightly less effective option is instilling a drop of Atropine into the better-seeing eye. Atropine is a strong dilating drop that temporarily blurs the vision in that eye which again forces the brain to use the amblyopic eye. In some cases, amblyopia can be treated with glasses. Often, a combination of the three different types of treatment mentioned above will be prescribed.
Can Amblopia be Treated with LASIK?
Although there is no surgical treatment for amblyopia unless it is caused by a congenital cataract, LASIK is possible for patients with an amblyopic eye. The criteria for being an acceptable LASIK candidate, assuming all corneal measurement are normal, is that the best corrected vision in the amblyopic eye be 20/40 or better. If you’re amblyopic, and your best corrected vision in the lazy eye is at least 20/40, you may qualify for LASIK laser vision correction with Dr. Mandel. Call us at 888-866-3681 to book a free consultation. You can also click here to book online.
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