Many people are affected by amblyopia, but few know this condition by its actual name. What is amblyopia? Amblyopia is an eye condition—commonly known as lazy eye—that generally affects young children. However, if untreated, amblyopia will continue to affect a person into adulthood and can cause vision problems or even total vision loss in the amblyopic eye.
Since young children rely on eyesight and visual development as they grow to learn about the world around them, it is essential to maintain a regular eye exam routine. Once they start attending school, eyesight and proper visual development become even more crucial in getting a proper education.
This blog article will discuss the signs, symptoms, and treatments of amblyopia and how we at Campus Eye Center can help protect your child from developing chronic lazy eye.
What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia is more commonly known as lazy eye because many people recognize this condition by the distinct symptom of a floating eye or unfocused eye that some people with lazy eye experience. Our eyesight relies on our eyes developing a good working relationship with our brain. Even though we often associate having a lazy eye with visual cues that one eye is wandering or not as strong as the other, amblyopia often goes undetected in children because causes and symptoms vary.
Amblyopia is the most common cause of vision loss in children and can start as early as infancy. When this visual impairment is present, your child’s brain and eyes are not properly working together. Often, one eye is weaker and cannot see or function properly. As amblyopia progresses, the weaker eye may have difficulty communicating with the brain, or the brain may start to ignore the amblyopic eye altogether.
As your child grows, so should their visual development. Since an amblyopic eye may not appear as a crossed eye or lazy eye, scheduling routine eye exams may be the only way to determine if a neurological or vision problem is present. Early treatment methods may help improve their eyesight or at least prevent further deterioration of their sight if there is an issue.
Symptoms of Amblyopia
Amblyopia can begin during infancy, making it hard to detect without regular eye exams. As your child ages, you may notice an inability to follow objects with their eyes, crossed eyes, or one eye wandering to the side. You might also observe your child rubbing their eyes, squinting, and complaining of headaches.
Some of these symptoms are visually easy to spot, while others may seem like normal behavior for a small child. However, left untreated, any of these symptoms can lead to more significant vision problems as your child gets older. Especially once your child starts school, you may notice they cannot focus at school, have a hard time learning and completing homework, or begin acting out.
What Causes Lazy Eye?
There are three leading causes of lazy eye—deprivation, strabismus, and refractive errors. Our vision development is most important during childhood, and without treatment, all of these causes can lead to vision impairment or vision loss in the weakened eye.
Other causes of amblyopia include age, genetics, premature birth, and other eye or vision problems.
When deprivation causes amblyopia, light cannot enter the eye. A droopy eyelid or cataract (a cloudy eye lens) may block light from entering the eye and cause the brain to ignore that eye as a child’s vision develops, eventually causing permanent vision loss. It is crucial to treat deprivation amblyopia early to ensure the child’s vision develops correctly.
Strabismus is one of the most noticeable amblyopia symptoms because one or both eyes may wander. Even so, the misalignment of one or both eyes may be slight. The brain will favor the straighter eye when a child has crossed eyes or just a single misalignment. The brain may ignore the misaligned eye entirely to overcompensate with the stronger eye.
Refractive amblyopia occurs when a child’s eyes are not equally as strong and have an unequal refractive error. A refractive error—such as astigmatism, farsightedness, or nearsightedness—may be much worse in one eye than in the other.
The brain will favor the eye with fewer refractive errors because the brain cannot create the pathways needed to help the weaker eye see. This issue will cause the weaker eye to have significantly less visual development. Because the child might see well from one eye, they may not exhibit any symptoms commonly associated with amblyopia, making it difficult for parents or pediatricians to recognize. The only way to know for sure if your child suffers from this vision issue is to schedule a pediatric eye exam.
Does Amblyopia Get Worse With Age?
Even though the visual impairments from amblyopia begin in childhood, they can continue into adulthood with worsening symptoms if left untreated. Still, children with untreated amblyopia may have permanent vision loss before they even reach adulthood.
As your child ages, the amblyopic eye will continue to lose strength and vision abilities. The brain will also continue to ignore the amblyopic eye and favor the stronger eye.
Can Amblyopia Be Corrected?
Several treatment options are available to strengthen the amblyopic eye and increase the brain’s response to that weaker eye. It can be corrected if your child is diagnosed with amblyopia early enough. After treatments or vision therapy, several adult studies have also shown increased amblyopic eye function.
What Are the Treatment Options for Lazy Eye?
Treatments for amblyopia include using an eye patch, glasses, atropine eye drops, vision therapy, and surgery. Introducing an eye patch to cover the stronger eye is the most common treatment for a lazy eye. Solely using the weaker eye allows it to strengthen and communicate more with the brain.
You can use an eye patch in conjunction with other treatment options. For example, strabismus amblyopia often requires surgery to correct a misaligned eye. However, you will also see the use of an eye patch even after surgery to give the weaker eye a chance to strengthen in visual development.
Are You Concerned About Your Child’s Vision? Schedule an Appointment Today
Now that you have the answer to your question, “what is amblyopia?” you can better understand why it’s crucial to have your children’s eyes examined for vision issues when they are young. At Campus Eye Center, we care about your child’s visual development. We are an award-winning eye care resource, offering only the highest quality eye care for you and your family in Lancaster, PA. If you have any concerns about your child’s vision or want to start a healthy eye care routine, reach out today to schedule an appointment.