Amblyopia is commonly known as a “lazy eye” and is described as reduced vision in one eye compared to the other. Less commonly there are forms of amblyopia that involve both eyes. According to the National Institute of Health, amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment among children.
A “lazy eye” is not lazy at all. Recent research has shown that amblyopia is a disorder of the brain’s ability to use both eyes together as a team.1 Amblyopia is an active process due to suppression, or the brain actively ignoring the information coming from one eye. In addition to poor visual acuity, people with amblyopia are more prone to have difficulties with depth perception, eye movements related to reading, and visual decision making in driving.2
Amblyopia only develops in childhood due to:
Significant differences in the refractive (prescription) status between the two eyes due to farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism;
Constantly misaligned eyes or crossed eyes (Strabismus);
An obstruction of vision in early childhood i.e. Cataract, Ptosis (droopy eyelid)
It is important to note that a child with amblyopia rarely has any symptoms. Comprehensive eye examinations are the best way to identify children who are at risk for or whom already have amblyopia.
Treatment of Amblyopia
Amblyopia is treatable at any age, although the earlier the problem is found and treated the more successful the outcomes tend to be. Until recently, patching or punishing the better seeing eye was the only proven method of treating amblyopia. Recent research has shown that a binocular approach to treating amblyopia may be an effective alternative to patching only.3,4 If amblyopia can be treated with less reliance on patching then it may help avoid unnecessary emotional stress on a child or the family.5
Treatment may include:
Eyeglasses or contact lenses (proper lenses can help reduce stress so that the under-used eye can start to work more efficiently);
Patching or penalization of the better seeing eye;
Binocular vision activities;
A program of Vision Therapy to help improve the visual abilities of the eye with amblyopia including accommodation (focusing), fixation, saccades, pursuits (eye tracking) and spatial skills (eye-hand coordination). A program of Vision Therapy may reduce the frequency of patching since the goal of amblyopia therapy is to improve eye coordination, improve stereopsis (depth perception) and reduce suppression.
Locate a Doctor in your area who is experienced and knowledgeable in diagnosing and treating amblyopia.
1.Hess RF, et al. Binocular vision in amblyopia: structure, suppression and plasticity. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt. 2014 Mar;34(2):146-62
2.S Grant, MJ Moseley. Research review of eye-hand coordination, walking, driving, and reading skills of children and adults with amblyopia. Strabismus, 2011; 19(3) 119-129
3.Hess RF, et al. Restoration of binocular vision in amblyopia. Strabismus. 2011 Sep;19(3):110-8
4.Mansouri B, et al. Binocular training reduces amblyopic visual acuity impairment. Strabismus. 2014 Mar;22(1):1-6
5.J Carlton and E Kaltenthaler, Amblyopia and quality of life: a systematic review. Eye (2011) 25, 403-413