Also known as a ‘lazy eye’, amblyopia is a fairly common condition estimated to affect around 1 in 50 children in the United States. Although not serious, without treatment, children with amblyopia can find that their vision becomes impaired enough to affect their quality of life, including their ability to learn at school.
From birth until around 8 years old, your child’s brain and eyes will be working together to form vital connections. These connections will help their eyes to function properly in the future. However, anything that blocks or blurs the vision in either one or both of these eyes can impair the development of these connections. When this happens, the brain can struggle to recognize the images being sent to it by the eyes and so it starts to ignore the images seen by the otherwise healthy eye, causing it to become weaker and lose visual acuity. This results in good vision in one eye, and poor vision in the other.
There are a number of different things that can cause amblyopia to develop. These include:
Strabismus. This condition is characterized by ‘crossed eyes’ which occur because the eyes don’t line up together, causing one to become more dominant and the other one weaker.
Squint. This occurs when a weaker eye looks inwards, outwards, up or down, while the other eye looks forward.
Childhood cataracts. Cataracts may be associated with older people, but they can occur at any age including during childhood. They occur when changes in the lens of the eye cause cloudy patches, and this can prevent the connections between the eyes and brain from forming correctly during your child’s early years.
Refractive eye errors. Poor vision caused by refractive eye errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, can all contribute to the development of amblyopia.
It can be really difficult to tell if a child is experiencing visual problems. This is because many, like amblyopia, don’t cause symptoms. In fact, younger children are often completely unaware that they have a problem with their vision and lack the communication skills to be able to verbalize what they are experiencing. However, this doesn’t mean that there is no way to tell that your child has the condition.
You can also check your child’s eyes by covering each eye with your hand in turn. They might not react very much when you cover the lazy eye, but if you cover their good eye, it is likely that they will push your hand away.
Childhood eye exams are one of the best ways for amblyopia and any other vision issues to be detected. All children are recommended to attend regular eye exams, and in addition to their pediatric checks, your eye doctor will recommend a schedule of appointments that enable them to monitor the development, health, and condition of a child’s eyes and vision. This will enable any conditions like amblyopia to be picked up and treated as soon as possible.
The good news is that treatment for amblyopia is usually possible. Exactly what this will entail will depend on the cause of your child’s lazy eye. For example, in the case of amblyopia being caused by cataracts, it will first be necessary to treat cataracts to remove the obstacle. Nevertheless, most treatments are gradual and focus on strengthening the weaker eye so that it is as close to the healthy eye in terms of visual acuity as possible.
Find out more about amblyopia by speaking to our dedicated eyecare specialists today. Call City Eyes Optometry Center located in Sherman Oaks, California at 818-960-1300 to book an appointment.