At South Tulsa Vision Development Center, we treat a variety of common eye conditions. As the leading cause of vision loss in children, amblyopia (also referred to as a lazy eye) is serious and treatment to correct it should begin as early as possible.
What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia (a “lazy eye”) occurs when a child’s vision does not develop properly. The nerve pathways from the eye to the brain are not stimulated as they should be and the result is blurry vision in one or both of the eyes. However, because the nerve pathways have not developed, regardless of the prescription placed in front of the child’s eyes, they will not be able to see clearly because the brain is not able to interpret the image.
There are three types of amblyopia. Strabismic amblyopia occurs when the eyes do not align properly. Typically if the eyes are not aligned, double vision results. However, because of the young adaptable brain, most children will learn to suppress or “turn one eye off.” Because the eye is not being used, proper vision does not develop and Amblyopia results.
Refractive amblyopia is the result of different degrees of refractive error (glasses prescription) in each eye. Similar to strabismic amblyopia, the difference in prescription need between the two eyes does not allow the two eyes to work together, so one of the visual signals becomes suppressed and proper vision does not develop. This type of amblyopia is often not noticeable unless discovered during an eye exam.
Deprivation amblyopia occurs when the eyes are deprived of visual stimulation due to cataracts or some other obstruction that causes the eye to not receive a stimulus. Again, because the child has not had the experience of clear vision, the nerve pathways that help develop clear vision do not develop.
How Our Developmental Optometrists Treat Amblyopia
Depending on the type of amblyopia, the treatment options differ. The mainstay of treatment for many years has been to patch the “good” eye to force the amblyopic, or “bad” eye to develop. While patching is still often very necessary, the underlying principle that new research points to is that, although traditionally amblyopia has been thought to affect only one eye, the treatment needs to be binocular, in other words treating the way both eyes work together. Refractive amblyopia first must be treated by simply correcting the degree of refractive error (amount of glasses prescription needed) in each eye to balance each eye so that one does not have to work harder than the other. In both refractive and strabismic amblyopia the next step in treatment is to create situations that will enable the two eyes the opportunity to develop the ability to function together in a coordinated way.
For extremely young children that require patching, but may have difficulty wearing an eye patch, other options include prescription eye drops that blur the near vision in the child’s strong eye. This forces the brain to use the weak eye strengthening the visual pathways to improve its degree of vision. These eye drops do have side effects that must be considered before use. Most eye doctors will consider other options first.
Frequently Asked Questions About Ambylopia.
You may have heard the term “lazy eye” used in connection childhood vision problems. But this vision problem, more properly known as amblyopia, doesn’t resolve itself in childhood; it may persist throughout a person’s life if it is not corrected. If you’re puzzled and concerned about this form of visual impairment, here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about amblyopia in our community.
- What is amblyopia? Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, is a condition resulting from abnormal visual development. It occurs when the vision center of the brain discounts the visual signals from one eye in favor of those of the other eye. The eye itself may be perfectly capable of seeing, but the information it is sending is ignored or minimized by the brain. This may be due to a difference in clarity (Refractive Amblyopia), alignment (Strabismic Amblyopia) or light obstruction (Deprivation Amblyopia).
- What are the symptoms of amblyopia? Amblyopia may show few symptoms, and the affected person may not be aware of a problem. Wandering or crossed eyes (strabismus) may point toward a case of amblyopia. Children who tend to bump into objects on one side or the other, or who require very different corrective lens prescriptions for each eye, may have amblyopia.
- Why is it so important to treat amblyopia? The loss of binocular vision can cause severe visual and perceptual limitations. Without proper depth and distance perception, everyday activities that require balance and coordination may prove difficult or even hazardous. If the condition is allowed to go untreated, the neural pathways may stabilize to the point that regaining full use of the eye later in life can be very difficult.
- How do your developmental optometry centers detect amblyopia? Our developmental optometry centers administer a specialized neuro-developmental eye exam to look for signs of functional vision problems such as amblyopia. In addition to examining the difference in refractive errors between eyes, we may also perform a “cover test” to check each eye’s fixation alignment — a possible factor in the brain preferring one eye’s visual data over the other.
- How can vision therapy address the symptoms/difficulties associated with amblyopia? Our developmental optometrists will first correct any refractive errors in both eyes that might be causing the brain to prefer one eye’s signals over the other. We then will outline an individualized therapy program to address the various components necessary to remediate the amblyopic effect and to increase full binocular vision.
Need More Answers?
South Tulsa Vision Development Center is happy to answer all your questions about amblyopia and provide the answers your family members need to treat this significant vision challenge. We are here to serve you and your needs. Contact us today at (918) 949-4002 to schedule an appointment!