Amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye”, is a condition that generally develops in early childhood, occurring when the brain and the eye have a breakdown in communication. Over time, the brain relies on the “good” eye more than the other, causing it to get stronger while the other eye gets weaker.
According to the National Eye Institute, three per cent of children experience amblyopia, which can potentially lead to diminished vision if not treated.
It’s vital to recognise that amblyopia is not the same thing as strabismus, also known as “crossed eyes”. Understanding amblyopia is important, as it allows you to make informed decisions and choose the right treatment for your child.
What causes lazy eye?
Amblyopia arises due to a disruption in the normal development of vision during a child’s formative years. It is the leading cause of vision loss in children. This disruption can stem from several causes, including:
- Untreated refractive errors: Significant differences in the vision power of each eye, which might involve nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism (blurred vision).
- Strabismus: Also known as crossed eyes, strabismus is not the same thing as amblyopia. Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes, where they do not look in the exact same direction at the same time.
- Other eye conditions: Other conditions can result in obstructed vision during critical periods of development, such as cataracts or a droopy eyelid.
Lazy Eye Symptoms
Early detection is a key factor in managing amblyopia effectively, although symptoms may be difficult to notice. Children with amblyopia may experience poor depth perception, in addition to:
- Squinting to see clearly.
- Head tilting while focusing on an object.
- Shutting one eye.
- Eye wandering inward or outward.
- Eyes don’t seem to work together.
- One eye tends to ‘float’ inwards or outwards.
How to Fix a Lazy Eye
Correcting Vision, Not Just Cosmesis
Contrary to popular belief, managing amblyopia is not solely about improving the appearance of the eyes. The primary goal of amblyopia treatment is to enhance the lazy eye’s connection to the brain.
As amblyopia is a neurodevelopmental disorder, children are unlikely to benefit from any kind of lazy eye surgery unless it is to correct another issue that has caused the lazy eye, such as strabismus.
Fortunately, if caught early, amblyopia can be simple to treat through behavioural optometry.
Promoting Binocularity and Stereopsis
An essential aspect of lazy eye treatment involves encouraging binocularity and stereopsis – the ability to use both eyes together harmoniously and perceive depth, respectively. Vision therapy with a qualified children’s optometrist can be incredibly valuable in nurturing these vital visual skills, especially when combined with other methods, such as:
- Glasses: Corrective lenses can sometimes be the first step in managing amblyopia.
- Patching: This involves covering the stronger eye to encourage the use of the weaker eye.
- Atropine eye drops: These can be used to blur vision in the stronger eye, prompting reliance on the lazy eye.
The Importance of Consistency
Navigating the path to better vision requires dedication and commitment to the prescribed treatment, from both the child and parents. Working with healthcare providers, including regular visits to your optometrist, can greatly aid the treatment journey. By tailoring the approach to your child’s needs, a children’s optometrist ensures they receive the best possible care.
Trust the Children’s Optometrists at Bayside Eyecare
When it comes to treating amblyopia, early detection and diligent adherence to the treatment are essential, and many children can experience significant improvements in their vision. If you suspect that your child may have amblyopia or some other vision problem, it is important to see a children’s optometrist as soon as possible.
The Bayside Eyecare team is always ready to help families enjoy a more fulfilling life through better vision. Our qualified optometrists love to work with children, so book an appointment through our online form or give us a call on (03) 9909 5329 to get started today.