Amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye,” is an eye condition in which the brain and eye have difficulty working together properly. From birth through early childhood (about 6 years old), your child’s vision is being established and developed through the creation of important connections between their eyes and brain. If this development is stunted in any way, the brain may fail to properly recognize the images it receives from one or both eyes. If this happens, the brain will begin to disregard the signals coming from the underdeveloped eye, causing a weakening of vision in that eye, which is then considered “amblyopic.”
How Would My Child Develop Amblyopia?
Amblyopia is often tied to genetics. This means that if a member of your family has been diagnosed with amblyopia, your child is more likely to have it as well. If your child was born prematurely or has other developmental issues, this can also contribute to the development of amblyopia.
Amblyopia may also come about as a result of another common childhood eye condition known as strabismus. In strabismus, one of your child’s eyes may look straight while the other may look inward, outward, up or down. This happens as a result of weakness or underdevelopment of the muscles in charge of eye movement. This misalignment of the eyes causes difficulty with binocular fusion. This is the ability of your child’s brain to interpret the two distinct, but similar, images sent to it from both eyes into a unified picture. If this condition goes untreated, amblyopia is likely to result, since the brain is then forced to deal with this difficulty by ignoring the signals coming from the misaligned eye, causing it to become amblyopic.
Amblyopia can also result from different visual strengths in each eye. This condition is known as anisometropia. If this condition goes untreated for too long, your child’s brain will learn to favor the eye that provides clearer vision, and ignore the signals it receives from the weaker eye, making it amblyopic.
How Will I Know If My Child Has Amblyopia?
In many cases, it is not the child that notices that he or she has vision issues. Children are extremely good at adapting to overcome difficulties, and your child is likely to come up with ways to compensate without realizing that his or her sight is flawed. It is, therefore, up to parents, teachers and family doctors to notice the signs and symptoms and act accordingly.
If you notice your child has crossed eyes, squints often in order to see or tilts his or her head to see better, you should consult an eye doctor to check for amblyopia. Your child may also display poor depth perception or an inability to see in three dimensions as a result of the brain effectively seeing out of only one eye.
How Would My Child’s Amblyopia Be Treated?
In order to get your child’s brain to stop ignoring the signals coming from the amblyopic eye, various methods are employed to force it to begin relying on the amblyopic eye for input.
In the case of anisometropia, prescription glasses may be enough to fix sight and encourage the brain to begin using the weak eye again. In other cases, eye patches or atropine drops serve to block vision in the dominant eye, causing the brain to rely on the amblyopic eye for vision. This will eventually strengthen the amblyopic eye and accustom the brain to using this eye.
In the case of strabismus, surgery is often required in order to loosen or tighten the eye muscles that are causing the amblyopic eye to wander.
Another option for fixing amblyopia is known as “vision therapy.” This works much like physical therapy, by employing different eye exercises and tools to accustom the brain to using the amblyopic eye.
For more information about your child’s amblyopia, contact your eye doctor today.
What is Strabismus?
Strabismus is the medical name and diagnosis for a visual condition in which the two eyes are not aligned and working together as a team at all times. In other words, the two eyes are not always fixating or focusing at the same place or on the same visual target simultaneously (that’ binocular vision).
Reduced vision is a result. Symptoms can include double vision, loss of vision in one eye (amblyopia), loss of binocular vision and depth perception, learning disability, anxiety, being accident-prone and more.
Strabismus vs. Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) – Are They the Same Eye Condition or Medical Diagnosis?
Strabismus and Amblyopia are not the same eye / vision condition or medical diagnosis. “ Eye” is the common or vernacular term for the medical diagnosis named Amblyopia.
People sometimes confuse Strabismus with Amblyopia and use the term “ Eye” interchangably for the two different conditions. Some reasons for this confusion: (1) a few types of strabismus (e.g., constant esotropia or exotropia) can cause amblyopia (but most types do not); (2) there is a general lack of knowledge about the different types of common binocular vision impairments and (3) there is a long popular history of misusing the term lazy eye to refer to all of types of visible eye turns (that’ Strabismus). For example, some people will say “ eye” instead of using common or vernacular terms for strabismus like “ eyes” or “ eyed” or “-eyed.”.
Amblyopia and Crossed Eyes
Many children and adults with true Amblyopia do not have a visible eye turn. You can not tell that one of the person’ eyes isn’ working just by looking at them. That’ why a child’ first eye exam should take place at six months! Amblyopia causes more visual loss in the under 40 age group than all the injuries and diseases combined in this age group.
Strabismus vs. Amblyopia – Is Treatment the Same?
Although Strabismus and Lazy Eye (Amblyopia) are not the same condition or diagnosis, they do sometimes occur at the same time or one can cause the other. Treatment is not always the exactly same, but Vision Therapy Rehabilitation — with or without corrective lenses — is effective treatment for both of these conditions.
Strabismus Treatments – All Options
Treatments for Strabismus include Strabismus Surgery, Atropine Drops, Botox injections, Corrective Lenses with or without prism, and Vision Therapy (including Orthoptics). Any treatment that addresses the eye muscles only, such as Strabismus Surgery or medications (Atropine, Botox) will most likely not change the brain and nervous system enough to normalize vision and to bring about improved vision, such as binocular vision and 3D stereo vision (stereopsis). And in many cases, in terms of cosmetic results only, even after repeated strabismus surgeries, lasting normal appearance is still not achieved.
In other words, Strabismus Surgery often is cosmetic surgery only whereas Vision Therapy (strabismus treatment without surgery) changes eyes, brain, and body to improve both appearance and vision at the same time.
Vision Therapy for Strabismus
Vision Therapy — strabismus treatment without surgery; with or without corrective lenses — is the most effective and non-invasive treatment for Strabismus. In a Vision Therapy program, eye exercises, lenses, and/or other therapy activities are used to treat the brain and nervous system which control the eye muscles. Vision Therapy produces both positive cosmetic results and vision improvement (3D vision, stereopsis, binocular depth perception, etc.).
Strabismus Surgery Treatment – Pre- and Post-surgical
In some cases of Strabismus (such as congenital esotropia), surgery is part of the treatment plan or the patient has already had one or more strabismus surgeries. Our practice provides expert pre- and post- surgical consultation, primary eye care, and therapy. We can help you make a fully informed decision. Our recommendations will depend on the type of strabismus and many other factors. We will inform you as to the possible risks and outcomes. For example, we will want you to be aware that strabismus surgery often has to be repeated because the eye straightening effects do not last and the eye turn comes back or changes direction.