Amblyopia, which may cause visual loss in up to 5% of people, is also known popularly as the "Lazy Eye". It occurs when the visual system on one side of the body is not given sufficient stimulation to develop and/or maintain normal vision. In unusual circumstances this problem may occur on both sides of the visual system but in most cases it is present on either the left or right side. The terms "Amblyopia" or "Lazy Eye" refer only to the loss of vision; it is incorrect to refer to a turned eye as a "Lazy Eye" unless one is specifically referring only to the visual loss in that eye, not to its lack of proper position.
Amblyopia occurs when the visual system is structurally normal, or at least normal enough to support good vision. This is a very important point because it implies that if the impaired visual system is given stimulation early enough then good vision can be restored and maintained. In general, treatment of amblyopia must be accomplished during relatively early childhood for the therapy to have any beneficial effect. In most cases, this means that the treatment of amblyopia must be completed before eight to ten years of age, or the lost vision will be permanently lost. Conversely, any vision that can be restored and maintained before the child is eight to ten year of age will be permanently maintained during the child's life. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance that the diagnosis of amblyopia be made as early as possible and that the treatment be continued without interruption until the maximum vision is achieved.
What Causes Amblyopia ?
Amblyopia may be caused by several different problems in the visual system: Firstly, when one or both eyes are out of position, only one eye or visual system at a time can be used. If one eye is habitually used and the other is not, the unused eye will become amblyopic. Secondly, when one eye has a larger refractive error (need for glasses) than the other, the eye with the larger error will become lazy or amblyopic. Thirdly, when an extremely large refractive error is present in both eyes, both may become amblyopic. Finally, when a structural defect in the front part of one eye prevents stimulation of the retina of that eye it will become amblyopic, and will not see properly once the structural defect is repaired unless the amblyopia is also treated.
How can you find Amblyopia ?
The diagnosis of amblyopia is made in a very straightforward way; the visual, acuity of the child is measured. If the acuity of the two eyes is not equal, amblyopia must be suspected, and the child should be examined carefully by an ophthalmologist familiar with working with children.
How Can Amblyopia be treated ?
Once the diagnosis of amblyopia is made treatment should begin immediately. The primary treatment of amblyopia involves patching the better eye all or part of the day, in order to force the child to use the poorer eye. The treatment should be continued without interruption until the condition is corrected. Although the child may object to patching the good eye, allowing the treatment to be lessened or stopped by these objections will only result in treatment failure or prolongation. Additionally, if glasses are needed, these must be worn full time; any strabismus present should be corrected. The patch, which should be an adhesive one, must be worn on the eyelids, not on the glasses. Amblyopia can be cured, but only early and proper treatment works!