Amblyopia, commonly known as “lazy eye”, is partial or complete loss of vision in one eye due to conditions that prevent normal development. In amblyopia, the brain favors one eye and, basically, ignores the other, leading to lack of stimulation and maturity in the brain cells associated with that eye. The most common cause of monocular (one eye) blindness, it affects between 2 and 3 percent of children in the United States.
The conditions that lead to amblyopia, include:
The key to treating amblyopia is discovering it as early as possible. Parents may not have any indication that there is a problem, which makes it even more important to have a child’s eyes checked as early as 6 months and then again by age 3. Children should definitely be tested before they reach school-age. Some things that a pediatric eye doctor will be looking for are:
For some cases of amblyopia, treatment may require surgery, but the main method involves forcing the weaker eye to focus. This is usually done by placing a patch over the stronger eye or, sometimes, using eye drops to cause blurry vision in the stronger eye. Some doctors may suggest wearing special glasses that have a lens that blocks or blurs the vision in the good eye. It may take some time, but the weaker eye should start strengthening.
Even though amblyopia is often called “lazy eye”, this is not an accurate descriptor. The word “amblyopia” comes from the Greek “amblys” meaning blunt, dull, faint, or dim and “ops” meaning eye. So, literally, when referring to vision, amblyopia means dim vision. No matter what it is called, amblyopia is a very serious condition. Not only can it have a major effect on a child’s vision, but it can also have significant psychological implications.
Heredity seems to play a role in the likelihood of a child having amblyopia, so, if it is or has been present in other family members, make sure to have your child checked early and regularly. Remember, it won’t be obvious in the beginning, and you may not be able to tell simply by looking. Your eye doctor has the tools and skills to make the diagnosis. While there are treatment options that can be effective, the key to good results is early detection and treatment.
If you believe that your child may have amblyopia, Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts is ready to provide high-quality, comprehensive care in our three convenient Long Island office locations. For more information about pediatric eye care, or if you have other questions or comments, please call the office most convenient to you, Bellmore, Great Neck, Little Neck or Huntington. If you would like to schedule an appointment, simply click here to go to our online scheduler.