Eye Problems Amblyopia

Better known as a “lazy eye,” amblyopia is a disorder that typically only affects one eye while the other remains normal. Those who suffer from amblyopia have poor, blurry vision. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatments for lazy eye.

Amblyopia Causes

Several factors contribute to the development of amblyopia, including:

  • A profound difference in vision quality between the two eyes forces the stronger eye to take over and suppress the images received by the other eye, making it almost or completely useless.
  • Complete visual deprivation or poor transmission of a visual image to the brain for a prolonged period at a young age can cause lazy eye.
  • In childhood, amblyopia can result from a misalignment of the eyes.

Who Does Amblyopia Affect?

Approximately one to five percent of the population is affected by amblyopia. Anyone who suffers from the above causes during the so-called “critical period” of early childhood is more likely to develop this disorder. The onset typically occurs at such a young age because amblyopia is not actually a problem with the eye itself but rather a developmental problem in the brain.

What Are Common Symptoms?

Unfortunately, people who only have mild cases of lazy eye may not notice their symptoms or be aware that they have amblyopia until diagnosed by a doctor. However, some people will experience the following symptoms:

  • bad or blurry vision
  • poor depth perception
  • poor spatial acuity
  • reduced sensitivity to contrast or motion.

Types of Amblyopia

The different types of amblyopia include:

  • Form-deprivation and occlusion amblyopia: This type can occur if there is any corneal scarring (such as with forceps injuries during birth) that prevents proper development.
  • Refractive or anisometropic amblyopia: This is the type that occurs when there’s a strong difference in the vision quality between the two eyes, but it doesn’t have the same physical manifestation (the “lazy eye”) as strabismic amblyopia. Unfortunately, this means it can go undiscovered by pediatricians during regular childhood check-ups.
  • Strabismic amblyopia: This type is most commonly called “lazy eye.” If it forms during the adult years, it commonly causes double vision. However, in children, the stronger eye suppresses the weaker one. Strabismic amblyopia is the easiest type to recognize since the weaker eye often looks and behaves differently.

Treatments for Amblyopia

All three types of amblyopia can be treated and usually completely cured if caught early enough. The earlier the treatment begins the better it is.

The first step is to figure out the underlying cause of the amblyopia because that determines what type of amblyopia you have and what treatments will work best for your case.

The treatment of amblyopia often involves the use of a patch over the stronger eye. This forces the lazy eye to work, strengthening its vision. The patch may be needed for as little as a few weeks or as long as a year. Another variation of the patch is putting atropine drops in the stronger eye to blur that eye’s vision. However, the drops are less successful than the patch and, therefore, less commonly used.

Sometimes, an amblyopia patient can wear glasses, especially those with refractive amblyopia, as long as the glasses fix the discrepancy in vision between the two eyes.

Amblyopia surgery can be attempted to fix the alignment of the two eyes. The surgery is performed on the eye muscles themselves and helps the eyes work better together.

Doctors recommend that patients do eye exercises, either before or after surgery, since these help prevent falling into faulty vision habits, especially those associated with strabismic amblyopia.

Because all of these treatments have proven most affective in children under the age of five, it is important to seek a doctor’s opinion early if you notice any signs of amblyopia in your children. However, don’t panic if your children are older. They can still be treated, but it may take longer for the condition to improve.

Even if this condition starts as a mild case, if left untreated, amblyopia can lead to severe problems, such as blindness in the affected eye. As a result, it’s important to see your optometrist if you or your children suffer from any of the symptoms associated with this disease.