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, as well as how we at Campus Eye Center can help protect your child from developing a lazy eye.
What is Amblyopia?
Our eyesight is reliant 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 begins in childhood and can start during 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 a hard time 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.
Symptoms of Amblyopia
As mentioned, 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, 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 are unable to 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 a lazy eye—deprivation, strabismus, and refractive errors. Our vision development is most important during childhood, and each of these causes can lead to vision impairment or vision loss in the weakened eye without treatment.
Other causes of amblyopia include age, genetics, premature birth, and other eye or vision problems.
When amblyopia is caused by deprivation, light is unable to 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.
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. With crossed eyes or just a single misalignment, the brain will favor the straighter eye. The misaligned eye may be ignored entirely by the brain to overcompensate with the stronger eye.
A refractive error—such as astigmatism, farsightedness, or nearsightedness—may be much worse in one eye than the other eye. The brain will favor the eye that has fewer refractive errors. This will cause the weaker eye to have significantly less visual development.
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. If your child is diagnosed with amblyopia early enough, it can be corrected. Several adult studies have also shown some increase in the function of the amblyopic eye after treatments or vision therapy.
Treatment Options for Lazy Eye
Treatments for amblyopia include using an eye patch, glasses, atropine drops, vision therapy, and surgery. Introducing an eye patch to cover the stronger eye is the most common treatment for a lazy eye. Having to use the weaker eye gives it a chance at strengthening and communicating 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
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 you are looking to start a healthy eye care routine, reach out today to schedule an appointment.