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Amblyopia

Also known as lazy eye, amblyopia is the main cause of vision impairment in children.

three children wearing eye patches to help fix amblyopia

Amblyopia is when the vision in one eye is better than the other so-called ‘lazy eye’. However the lazy eye is otherwise perfectly normal. This is the main cause of visual impairment in children starting at early childhood.

What are the causes of amblyopia?

Amblyopia is caused from reduced visual input in one eye during visual development throughout infancy to early childhood. The reduced visual input in one eye is because the eyes and brain are not communicating with each other and the brain starts to favour one eye over the other.

Amblyopia is tough to treat as it requires retraining the brain to trust and rely upon what it has itself defined as a lazy eye. For that reason, it is critical that if you suspect your child has poor vision that they should be seen, observed and treated before 9 years of age by an eye care professional.

Other factors known to contribute to lazy-eye include:

  • Small size & low weight at birth
  • Premature birth
  • Family history of lazy eye
  • Developmental disabilities

What are the symptoms of amblyopia?

Amblyopia is difficult to detect, mainly because your child will not complain of blurry vision. The best way to detect the presence of amblyopia is to get your child screened regularly at an early age by an eye care professional. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Continually shuts/squints/rubs one eye
  • Complain they ‘can’t see’ when one eye is covered
  • An eye is turned (in/out/up/down) – see also Strabismus
  • A white pupil (easily spotted in flash photography)
  • Eyes that shake constantly
  • Tilted head posture
  • Poor depth perception

What are the treatment options for amblyopia?

Treatment of amblyopia involves making the child use their weaker eye (lazy eye) more frequently. This is carried out by making the child wear a patch over the stronger eye up to 2 hours a day (this could be more depending on severity of amblyopia).

Different approaches to the patch involve the use of eye drops, wearing filtered glasses and changing the glasses prescription. All these methods are used to stimulate vision in the weaker eye and help the brain’s visual centres develop more completely.

For a diagnosis and to discuss treatment options of any eye condition, please make an appointment.