Treatment of Amblyopia or Lazy Eye

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Treatment of Amblyopia or Lazy Eye

Amblyopia is the medical term for a condition more commonly known as ‘lazy eye’, in which one eye is not transmitting information to the brain correctly. After a while, the brain will stop trying to interpret images from the affected eye and ignore it in favour of the stronger eye. This is why the eye is called ‘lazy’ – not because it appears to wander, though that can happen too.

The connection between strabismus and amblyopia
Many patients ask about the connection between strabismus (squint or crossed eyes) and amblyopia,or sometimes confuse term one for the other. They are not the same condition, but untreated strabismus can lead to amblyopia. However, squint is just one possible cause of amblyopia. 

Strabismus (squint) describes crossed, turned, or misaligned eyes.

Amblyopia (lazy eye) describes the condition when the brain stops processing the input from the affected eye.

Amblyopia can result from anything that affects the vision in one eye, and causes the brain to receive two different images (one clear and one unclear). In addition to strabismus, other causes can include near or far-sightedness, astigmatism, or cataracts in one eye.

Amblyopia affects approximately 2-3 out of every 100 children, and is the most common cause of visual problems in childhood. This is because our eyes are still developing for the first few years of our lives, and it’s not uncommon that one eye could be not as developed as the other. The good news is, if it’s diagnosed and treated early, there’s an excellent chance of restoring full visual acuity.  What’s more, it can usually be treated non-invasively, without surgery.

To effectively treat amblyopia in children, the goal is to force the eye with weaker vision to work harder by restricting use of the ‘good’ eye. There are two ways to accomplish this. One is by having the child wear an eye patch for a period of several weeks to several months, for a few hours each day. Recent studies suggest that wearing the patch for only two hours per day is just as effective as six hours. The other option is an eye drop called atropine, which can be placed in the stronger eye to create temporarily blurry vision. Both methods rely on the same concept – side-lining the healthier eye to force the weaker eye to build better connections with the brain, and to help the part of the brain that is responsible for vision to develop. Some parents find the eye drops easier to work with, while others have better luck with the eye patch, but either way will help. 

The ideal time frame in which to detect amblyopia and begin treatment is before the child is 6 or 7 years old. This is when certain parts of the visual system reach maturity and thus become more difficult to treat. Not much is known about the success rate of correcting amblyopia in adults. So it’s important to have regular eye exams for your child. Most paediatricians will check baby’s eyesight in infancy, then there is usually another exam at around 4 years of age. Toddlers are notoriously difficult to examine properly, which is why the next eye test is not usually until pre-school age, but if you notice anything off about your child’s visual abilities, or their eyes appear to be crossed or misaligned, be sure to speak to your GP or eye doctor about your concerns.

This content is proudly brought to you by Moorfields Hospital in Dubai.


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