Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
The term “lazy eye” is misleading as there is nothing “lazy” about your eyes, nor the individual’s attempt to see. Amblyopia is merely the process in which the brain relies more and more on the information from one eye instead of both eyes equally.
As time progresses and the brain ignores the vision from the “lazy” eye more and more, the neural connection in that eye is reduced causing vision problems, including the inability to judge distances and a smaller visual field.
What causes amblyopia?
Imagine you have two friends that you rely on to tell you the weather before you leave the house (so that you can dress accordingly). One friend always gets the weather right, while the other friend sometimes tells you it’s raining when it’s not. Over time, you realize: “What’s the point of even asking the second friend at all when the first friend gets it right every time?”
Similarly, your brain begins to ignore the poor information from one eye and begins to exclusively rely on the other, resulting in one strong eye and one “lazy” eye.
But what causes one eye to perform poorly in the first place?
Low birth weight, premature birth, ocular trauma, developmental issues, or family history can contribute to the chance of developing a lazy eye.
How is amblyopia treated?
Since the development of a lazy eye is the result of the brain relying too much on the good eye, doctors will place an eyepatch over the good eye forcing the brain to now rely on the weak eye instead. Neural connections will be strengthened resulting in improved vision and overall control of the eye.
Timing is critical!!
The success of amblyopia treatment depends on time.
The earlier in life, the better. Since a lazy eye is not always obvious, it is important to have your child examined by an eye doctor at least once between 3 and 5 years old, if not earlier. In fact, some rudimentary tests can even be performed as early as 6 months. Provided that it is caught early, treatment is usually very successful.
Be on the lookout for signs in your child, such as:
- tilting their head
- poor eye-hand coordination (as depth perception is affected)
- closing one eye to see better
- one eye that is visible turned in or out from the other
Image Credit: Lions Eye Institute