Amblyopia, also referred to as “lazy eye”, is a central vision development disorder in which one eye does not develop normal visual acuity or sharpness of vision. This results in blurred vision in the suffering eye. Amblyopia can occur in both eyes, however, usually just one is affected. About 3% of the US population has Amblyopia and it is the most common cause of visual impairment among children. This disorder will not go away on its own and, if left untreated, can lead to permanent visual impairment such as legal blindness. Treatment generally includes prescription lenses, prisms, and vision therapy.

Amblyopia develops during infancy and early childhood, usually before the age of 6. It is possible to avoid reduced vision by detecting the disorder early enough in the child’s visual development. Early diagnosis and correction are crucial in ensuring a higher chance of complete recovery. If amblyopia is diagnosed in the pre-teen years and years after, treatment takes longer and is also less effective. Amblyopia most commonly occurs when both eyes are not used together. Causes of this include strabismus, refraction, and deprivation.

Strabismus is the most common cause of Amblyopia and occurs when the eyes are not straight. One eye may veer towards the side in a different direction than the other. The brain then ignores or “turns off” the eye that is misaligned, causing vision to drop. Strabismus surgery is used to straighten eyes. Surgery is followed by eye patching and orthoptics, or visual therapy, to help both eyes work together simultaneously.

Another common cause is refractive amblyopia. This occurs when there is a large or unequal amount of refractive error in the child’s eyes. One eye may suffer a substantial difference in the degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness while the other does not. Disuse of an eye leads to amblyopia as the brain then predominantly relies on the eye with less uncorrected refractive error. Refractive amblyopia is typically corrected with glasses and contact lenses correcting refractive errors in both eyes.

Deprivation is the third most common cause of amblyopia. It is the result of something obstructing the vision in an eye such as a congenital cataract. Without light being able to enter and be focused in the child’s eye, normal visual development is extremely difficult. This kind of amblyopia can affect both eyes.

Symptoms of amblyopia may be difficult to detect in infancy. Strabismus or crossed eyes is the most common sign. Another sign would be the apparent discomfort of the child when covering one of his or her eyes. This can be confirmed by doing a screen test, covering, and uncovering one eye at a time as the child is doing a visual task and observing how they react. In children of older age, signs include noticeably favoring one eye or frequently bumping into objects on one side.

Once eye misalignment or other symptoms of Amblyopia is detected, an appointment for a child’s eye exam should be scheduled immediately. Children should have their first eye check up before 6 months of age and again at age 3. Call Vision World of Coral Springs today to schedule an appointment.