Amblyopia (lazy eye) is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normally during childhood. It commonly affects one eye but may also involve both eyes. It is generally caused by lack of use of one eye, when brain 'favors' one eye over the other.
The visual system of the child is not fully developed at birth. The visual brain cells of a child are developing during their first decade of life. Any insult to the child's vision during this time period can lead to amblyopia.
Following are the common causes of amblyopia:
Detecting amblyopia in child is difficult, as the child may not be aware of having one strong eye and one weak eye. If the child has a squint or some other abnormality, the parents may notice that something is wrong. The vision of the child can be tested by the ophthalmologist by special tests. Poor vision in an eye may point towards a possibility of amblyopia. Remember, poor vision in an eye does not always mean amblyopia. It is important to rule out other causes of poor vision in child.
Yes. In most of the cases the amblyopia is treatable. The treatment involves 'forcing' the brain to use the weaker eye and thus stimulating its visual development. This is done by patching the better eye. The schedule of patching is decided by the ophthalmologist depending upon the degree of amblyopia and the age of child.
As soon as possible. The earlier the amblyopia is detected and the treatment started, the better are the results. The aim is to stimulate the brain to use the suppressed eye before permanent change has occurred, so that it gets a chance of normal development. Generally speaking, an amblyopia that is not treated by 10 years of age has a poor chance of recovering the vision.
If an amblyopic eye is not treated by 10 years of age, the amblyopic eye may permanently stay weak. This has many disadvantages like:
The success of amblyopia treatment largely depends upon the motivation of parents and the cooperation of the child. Patching of the better eye, especially when the amblyopic eye has very poor vision is not tolerated well by the child. The parents have to understand the importance of this treatment and should explain the same to the child to ensure better cooperation.
The other factors that determine the success of treatment are:
Amblyopia has to be treated first in all these cases. Once the amblyopia has been taken care of, the surgery may be done for squint correction.