The Truth About Lazy Eye Syndrome
Lazy eye or amblyopia is reduced vision in one eye caused by abnormal visual development early in life. Here, the weaker or lazy eye often wanders inward or outward. Amblyopia generally develops from birth up to the age of seven years and is the leading cause of decreased vision among children.
Amblyopia affects around three out of every one-hundred children or approximately two to four percent. The condition is treatable and typically responds well to strategies such as eye patching and wearing corrective lenses. However, what’s especially concerning about amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” as it’s more commonly called, is that it can be challenging to diagnose. Additionally, the best results are typically seen when the condition is treated early in children who are seven years old or younger.
At Doctors Eyecare Wetaskiwin, we genuinely care about the well-being of our patients. With this in mind, here is some important information that parents should know about amblyopia, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment.
First off, a little more information about the issue. Amblyopia occurs when one eye sees more clearly than the other, even with the help of corrective lenses. Note, the amblyopic eye itself is likely healthy and physically capable of normal vision. The problem is really with the visual system, the eyes, the brain, the visual pathways and how its components work together.
When one eye is crossed (strabismus) or has a significant refractive error (glasses prescription) compared to the other eye, the brain learns to use the ‘good’ eye because it sees better and learns to ignore or suppress the ‘bad’ eye at least part of the time. This results in poor binocular vision as the brain does not use both eyes together, and when the suppression occurs consistently over a long enough time, the affected eye’s vision will become poor and is now considered an amblyopic (or “lazy”) eye.
What does a lazy eye look like, you ask? Unfortunately, simple observation alone is usually not enough to detect amblyopia. In fact, the term “lazy eye” inaccurately suggests that the eye doesn’t move, appears to do what it wants, or is visibly “lazy” somehow. But that’s generally not the case.
Unlike strabismus, or “crossed eyes,” in which an eye may be visibly turned in, out, up, or down, an eye’s appearance can’t diagnose amblyopia. While a person can have amblyopia as a result of strabismus, not all cases of amblyopia involve strabismus.
To complicate matters, children with amblyopia may not even realize their vision is functioning abnormally because they have no frame of reference to judge their vision against. Parents can, however, be alert for potential symptoms like trouble with depth perception, such as difficulty catching objects or being clumsy, trouble with schoolwork or learning to read.
To diagnose amblyopia, your doctor will conduct an eye exam, checking for eye health, a wandering eye, a difference in vision between the eyes or poor vision in both eyes. As mentioned before, it’s important to start treatment for the lazy eye as soon as possible in childhood, when the complicated connections between the eye and the brain are forming. Treatment options depend on the cause of the lazy eye and how much the condition affects your child’s vision. Your doctor might recommend corrective eyewear, eye patches, eye drops, or in some cases, surgery. Vision therapy may also be required to train the visual system to establish efficient binocular vision. Positive long-term gains are far more likely when patching is combined with in-office optometric vision therapy.
For most children diagnosed with amblyopia, proper treatment improves vision within weeks to months. This said, treatment might last from six months to two years, and it’s crucial for your child to be monitored for recurrence of lazy eye.
As the best optometrist in Wetaskiwin, Alberta, our eye care clinic offers a full range of eye health services to patients of all ages, from children to seniors. Our routine eye exams and vision tests, eye disease diagnosis and management, immediate attention for eye emergencies, and complete eye health management are top-notch. We provide eyewear prescriptions, eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contact lenses. We also offer eye surgery consultations and co-management with ophthalmologists.