Sometimes amblyopia is referred to as “lazy eye”. This term is an old term and leads to a misunderstanding of amblyopia. Amblyopia is when the eye, or both eyes, does not develop visually. All the parts of the eye are formed correctly, and the eye is healthy, but still does not develop visually – meaning that even though the eye is healthy, the vision is not good.
What are the causes of amblyopia?
Something has to interfere with the visual development in the early years (birth to age 5 or 6) that prevents the eye from seeing well enough to develop well. Different issues may be present that prevent good visual stimulation at a young age resulting in amblyopia. Below is a list of potential sources of amblyopia:
- Strabismus. This is when one eye is not lined up with the other. If this is present continuously, amblyopia may result
- Anisometropia. This is when the two eyes have very different prescriptions present to allow for good vision. In this situation, the brain will pay attention only to the better eye, resulting in amblyopia in the other eye.
- Cataract. A child born with cataract, or a cloudy lens, will develop amblyopia if cataract surgery is not performed at young age.
- Ptosis. This is when an eyelid droops low enough to block the vision during the developmental years. Surgery to correct this problem at a young age is indicated to prevent amblyopia.
It’s critical that amblyopia is detected at a very young age. Some of the problems listed above may be detected at the pediatrician’s examination, but many times potential for amblyopia is missed. The American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommended children have their first comprehensive developmental evaluation around their third birthday. The earlier the detection of amblyopia the better the chances of successfully treating the condition. In another article, we will discuss treatment options for amblyopia.