Amblyopia "Lazy Eye"
It is thought to affect roughly 3% of children under 6 years of age. Amblyopia is a functional vision impairment usually in one eye that, when left untreated, progresses to permanent visual loss in the affected eye. The brain is in a critical developmental phase from birth to age 6 years. For proper vision to develop, the brain must receive equally clear images from both eyes at the same time. When one eye sends a blurry or impaired image the brain tends to block the input from the affected eye, favoring the normal eye image that is being sent. Over time the developing neurological pathway is permanently affected in the impaired eye.
Amblyopia can be caused by three things:
1) anything that physically obstructs vision (such as cataracts or a drooping eyelid)
2) strong differences between the prescriptions in each eye (anisometropia)
3) strabismus, or weak eye muscles causing the eye to not be straight
Some signs and symptoms of amblyopia or that increase the risk of amblyopia include:
1) wandering eyes or eyes that do not appear to move together in the same direction
2) eyes that do not fix together on the same object
3) a negative behavioral reaction when one eye is covered
4) squinting to see or positioning the head abnormally to focus on something (for instance tilting the head to one side)
5) a cloudy look to the pupil, or dark black spot in center of eye (cataract)
6) drooping upper eyelid (ptosis)
Various treatments are effective depending upon the cause and timing of therapy and include:
1) eye patching and eye drops to the better eye to help strengthen the weaker eye
Vision screening is done at birth by your child’s physician and at all health maintenance visits. If there is any sign or symptom of amblyopia or increased risk, then prompt evaluation by a pediatric ophthalmologist is necessary.