Lazy Eye is a catch-all term for when one eye doesn’t see as well as the other. It is also commonly known as Amblyopia. As the name implies, one eye develops reduced vision due to inadequate stimulus during early childhood, especially during the first 6 months of life. This “lazy eye” may become functionally blind if not treated. It is estimated that amblyopia causes more visual loss than all injuries and diseases combined in the under 40 age group.
There are two main types of Amblyopia. In Strabismic amblyopia, the eye muscles are not aligned properly, resulting in one eye being used more than the other. It mostly manifests itself in cross-eyes but not necessarily so. In anisometropic amblyopia, the eyes have different refractive powers. Because, it is difficult for the brain to balance the difference, the brain normally favors the stronger eye. Other causes include cataracts, severe astigmatism, and some eye diseases.
As Amblyopia does not produce obvious symptoms, the condition can go undetected until a later age. It is recommended that children go for regular check-ups, starting from as young as 3 months of age. For example, early detection of strabismus can be corrected before it causes amblyopia. Early intervention can also prevent vision loss. A recent National Eye Institute report also suggests that older children can also benefit from amblyopic treatments.
There are many treatments for amblyopia, depending on the conditions and causes:
* Surgery. This is often used to treat strabismus, cataracts and some eye conditions. Surgery is performed to force the eyes into alignment. Again, early intervention is the best. Babies as young as 6 month old can have surgery to correct this eye defect. Patients should be aware that sometimes, second follow-up surgery maybe required to complete the process. Because surgery can give eyes more depth perception, some patients may experience dizziness until the brain get used to the difference in depth perception following surgery.
Prescribed glasses. Sometimes, eye doctors will prescribe eye glasses to correct visual imbalance caused by refractive error as in anisometropia. This method is sometimes effective in astigmatism amblyopia.
* Vision Therapy. This is particularly helpful when amblyopia is detected early. Exercises are given to train both eyes to work together. It also train the brain to use the lazy eye, thereby forcing it to work. This form of therapy can be used alone, before or after surgery depending on the needs of the patients.
* Patching. A patch is used to cover the good eye, forcing the lazy eye to work, thereby developing the muscles. The length of time prescribed depends on the patient. It can be as short as a few weeks to as long as a year.
* Medication. This works on the same principle as an eye patch. Drops of eye drop or ointment are given to blur the vision of the good eye, forcing the weak eye to work.
Again, early detection is the key to preventing amblyopia. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent the onset of amblyopia since the condition usually develops in early childhood. Eye doctors recommend that eye examination start as early as 3 to 6 months of age.