Amblyopic also commonly known as “lazy eye” is one of the leading causes of visual disability amongst children. It generally develops starting from birth up to age of 7 years which is the time when the child’s visual system is developing.
Lazy eye develops because of abnormal visual experience early in life that changes the nerve pathways between a thin layer of tissue (retina) at the back of eye and the brain. The weaker eye receives fever visual signals. Eventually, the ability of eyes to work together decreases and the brain suppresses or ignores input from the weaker eye.
The common causes are:
Difference in sharpness of vision between the eyes due to different refractive status.
Deprivation amblyopic – deprivation of child of clear vision due to cloudy lens, (cataract- congenital or developmental), corneal opacity etc.
Small size at birth
If left untreated, this can cause permanent vision loss.
Signs and symptoms include
An eye that wanders inwards or outwards
Eyes that appear to not work together
Poor depth perception
Abnormal results of vision screening tests
When to see an eye doctor:
If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, consult an eye specialist as early as possible. For all children, a complete eye examination is recommended between ages 3 and 5 years.
Treatment essentially involves making the child use their weaker eye. If child has significant refractive error, it is corrected first. Sometimes simply giving them glasses improves their vision.
“Patching” is the mainstay of treatment. This is often done by putting a patch over the child’s stronger eye so that he/she uses weaker eye more. In some cases, eye drops can be used to blur vision in the stronger eye or child may wear eyeglasses with a lens that blurs vision in that eye.
It generally takes several weeks to several months to strengthen vision in the weaker eye. Once the child has better vision in that eye, they may need to wear an eye patch part time for a few years. This is because there is a chance that eye can weaken again. Remember to keep all appointments with the child’s ophthalmologist, who will carefully monitor your child’s vision.