What is lazy eye (amblyopia)?
Amblyopia, more commonly known as “lazy eye,” is an early childhood condition in which vision in one eye develops at a slower rate. Because of this, the brain focuses on developing the stronger, faster developing eye. As a result, the nerve pathways between the brain and the weaker eye are not stimulated properly. The visual brain cells of the weaker “lazy” eye do not mature and the eye tends to wander. Eventually, the brain may ignore signals from the lazy eye.
Lazy eye is most effectively treated at an early age. Early symptoms of lazy eye are not easy to identify, making pediatric eye care very important. Routine pediatric eye exams are recommended for all children, but if you suspect your child may be experiencing amblyopia, don't wait. The physicians at Rockland Eye specialize in gentle and thorough exams for children of all ages.
What causes lazy eye?
Symptoms of lazy eye in children may develop as the result of blurred vision or any condition that causes the eye to cross or turn outward. The most common cause of lazy eye is strabismus. In children with strabismus the eyes do not align. Instead, the eyes cross in or turn outward as the result of muscle imbalances in the eyes.
Lazy eye can also be caused by a deprivation in eye sight. For example, eyesight in one eye may be disrupted by the blurry spot of a cataract, preventing the eye muscles and nerves from developing properly. Vision deprivation can be the result of a congenital cataract, glaucoma, ptosis (droopy eye lid), eye injury, or eye surgery.
Refractive errors can also cause lazy eye. When a child is more nearsighted, farsighted, or has an uneven surface of the eye lens (astigmatism), lazy eye can result. Wearing glasses or contact lenses can usually offset the effects of these conditions.
How is lazy eye treated?
When diagnosed in early childhood, lazy eye is highly treatable. The most effective amblyopia treatment occurs before the age of eight or nine.
Once a child shows signs of lazy eye, your physician will work on strengthening the connections between the brain and eye. Depending on the cause, amblyopia treatment will likely involve a layered approach to correct all vision and eye concerns.
Common treatments include:
- Corrective eyewear
- Eye patches
- Vision exercises
- In some cases, surgery
What are the complications of lazy eye?
Untreated amblyopia can result in blindness of the lazy eye. This is the most common cause of single-eye vision impairment in young and middle-aged adults. Other complications may include a squint due to strabismus or an inability to perform certain tasks due to impaired central vision.
State-of-the-art equipment and pediatric and adult ophthalmologists at Rockland Eye are highly experienced in the early detection and treatment of lazy eye symptoms.