Amblyopia is an often misunderstood visual problem quite often missed in the early years of a child’s development. Ambylopia is not a disease, but rather, a healthy eye that is not developing. The old term for this condition was “lazy eye”.
What causes Amblyopia in Children?
The root cause of most amblyopia cases is some form of visual deprivation. The eye isn’t being used like it’s partner and fails to develop. Such deprevation comes from:
- Strabismus – one eye turns in or out, or in some cases up or down.
- High prescription need – it may be easier for the brain to ‘ignore’ one eye to allow it to focus on just one eye.
- Prescription imbalance – one eye sees well, but the other doesn’t and fails to develop
- Congenital issues – cataract (cloudy lens), or a severe ptosis (lid droop) may block the vision and keep the eye from developing.
What are treatment options for amblyopia in children?
Treatment options depend of the problem that leads to amblyopia. Fitting children in eyewear is indicated to treat when there is a high prescription need or an imbalance. If the eyes are not lining up, surgery may be indicated to correct the problem. Therapy may include patching the better eye to allow the weaker eye a chance to strenghthen. Surgery is indicated if cataract or ptosis is present.
When should children be tested for amblyopia?
Some of the above problems may be detected by a pediatrician. However, many children pass the screening evaluations at the pediatrician’s office and the school screenings. It is important for a child to have their first comprehensive evaluation around their third birthday. The opportunity for successful therapy is before children are 5 or 6. More information on children’s vision and parent information can be found at the American Optometric Association’s website.