If a child has amblyopia (sometimes referred to as “lazy eye”), it means he or she struggles with reduced vision in one eye because the brain and the eye are not working together and functioning as they should.
Amblyopia occurs because something blocked or blurred vision during the child’s developmental stages, so as a result, normal and healthy connections between the child’s eyes and brain did not form correctly. The deficiency causes the brain to favor one eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye.
In a patient with amblyopia, the suppressed eye itself tends to be healthy; but because the brain is favoring the other eye, the affected eye is not being used.
As a parent, teacher, or occupational therapist, it is important to note that many children who have amblyopia do not actually complain of vision problems. They have adapted or grown accustomed to favoring one dominant eye.
If you notice your child tilting his head or closing one eye in order to see, this is often a tell tale sign of amblyopia. You may also be able to observe that your child’s eyes are not aligned, that they are not moving together as a team, or that one eye is turning inward, wandering outward, upward, or downward.
Other common symptoms include poor depth perception, clumsiness, and squinting. Your child may complain of eyestrain or headaches. Amblyopia can make it difficult for a child to catch a ball or perform well in sports. At school, he may have trouble with near work or struggle to copy from the board.
Most commonly, amblyopia is caused by strabismus, which is a misalignment of the eyes. With strabismus, the eye is either constantly or intermittently turned–usually inward or outward. Rather than strain to adjust the misaligned images, the eye that points straighter becomes dominant.
If misalignment is not the cause, amblyopia may also occur if there is a significant difference between the two eyes. For example, one eye may not be able to focus as well as the other eye, the affected eye may be more farsighted or nearsighted than the other, there may be an anatomic block such as a droopy eyelid, or one eye may have more astigmatism than the other eye. Rather than strain to compensate for the less competent eye, again, the brain begins to favor one eye over the other.
Early detection of amblyopia is important. If left untreated, the brain will eventually ignore vision in the eye that is affected. Without proper attention by a trained optometrist who specializes in developmental and functional vision care, amblyopia will cause persistent vision problems.
If your child’s amblyopia is caused by a severe eye turn, surgery may be suggested; however this is uncommon and it’s usually an outpatient procedure. If one eye sees significantly more clearly than the other, eyeglasses are prescribed. Usually, a combination of eye patching, eye drops, and vision therapy exercises lead to significant improvement in patients with amblyopia, particularly if the condition is caught early.
If you suspect that your child has amblyopia, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.
The purpose of vision therapy exercises in amblyopic children is to strengthen overall vision by correcting the way the brain processes visual images. Vision therapy exercises are designed to force the brain to pay attention to the suppressed images seen by the weaker or amblyopic eye.
At the Visual Learning Center, our vision therapy programs for amblyopia are based in the best scientific research available in the field of vision and learning, and our methods are continually modified to incorporate new scientific data to achieve the best results. Each individualized session includes procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to properly control the whole vision system and targets your child’s specific deficiency.