Lazy eye (amblyopia) affects around 3 out of 100 children, and occurs when one eye does not develop properly during childhood.This results in poor vision and depth perception. If untreated, it can lead to functional blindness in adulthood.
Causes of Amblyopia
A child can be born with amblyopia, or it can develop in childhood. When a child has amblyopia, their brain will start to “turn off” the bad eye and start to primarily use the good eye.
Amblyopia can develop as a side effect of other vision conditions. These conditions include:
Strabismus occurs when each eye is pointed in a different direction. One eye may be turned in, out, up or down while the other points straight ahead. In order to avoid seeing double, a child’s brain may ignore the image from the eye that is not pointed straight ahead, causing lazy eye.
When a child is nearsighted, farsighted, or has an astigmatism, they have a refractive error. If a child has a refractive error that is significantly worse in one eye, the brain sometimes turns that eye “off” and starts to primarily use the good eye, causing lazy eye.
While this is rare, some children are born with a cataract (cloudy eyes). This can cause lazy eye in some children.
A droopy eyelid can block a child’s vision, which can sometimes cause them to develop a lazy eye.
When caught early, amblyopia is very treatable. Children best respond to treatment before the age of 7, although research has shown that children from 7-17 still have good results. The following treatment strategies are used to treat lazy eye:
Glasses can help to correct refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness & astigmatism), which can cause lazy eye.
Patching one eye
In order to stimulate the weaker eye, a child wears an eye patch over the strong eye for several hours each day.
Atropine eye drops
Atropine drops relax the muscles in the eyes, causing blurred vision. When used to treat lazy eye, the atropine drops are only used on one eye (the stronger eye). Like an eye patch, this causes the weak eye to work harder.
If a child has cataracts or droopy eyelids, surgery may be necessary in order to treat the cause of the lazy eye. Your eye doctor will help to determine if surgical intervention is necessary.
If your child is being treated for amblyopia, it is important for them to be monitored closely by their eye doctor. 25% of children treated for lazy eye will have a recurrence of lazy eye. When this happens, treatment must start again.
At Mill Creek Family Eye Center, we specialize in pediatric vision disorders, including lazy eye. Our optometrists will help to create a specialized treatment plan, backed by the latest research, and ensure that your child receives cutting edge treatment.