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Amblyopia: Signs, Symptoms, & Treatments

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Amblyopia, or as it’s more commonly referred to as “lazy eye”, is a developmental disorder where a person’s eyes fail to work properly together to produce clear vision. This problem can often lead to serious vision problems if not corrected.

The term visual acuity is used often when describing amblyopia. This term refers to the eyes ability to differentiate between shapes and objects at a given distance. This condition can manifest itself in several types, but each have similar underlying causes:

  • Strabismic amblyopia is the most common variant of lazy eye where the brain attempts to correct for double vision on its own by ignoring visual input from the problematic eye, causing it to become “lazy”.
  • Refractive amblyopia as its name would suggest, is caused by refractive errors. In this case both eyes are aligned properly but one eye may have more severe nearsightedness(myopia) or farsightedness(hyperopia), which drastically reduces visual acuity. In other cases, one eye may have significant astigmatism, while the other is perfectly fine.
  • Deprivation amblyopia occurs when light is obstructed from being focused in an infant’s eye usually caused by congenital cataracts.

Amblyopia begins during a child’s infancy and often occurs in one eye. Some cases involve reduced visual acuity in both eyes, making the disorder more severe. When detected in its early stages, reduced vision can be avoided almost entirely. If left untreated, lazy eye can lead to visual disability and even legal blindness.

Amblyopia Signs

Symptoms of amblyopia can often be confused with other visual impairments, namely crossed eyes. The crucial time to diagnose amblyopia is during infancy, before the condition becomes more severe. Look for the following signs to determine if you or your child has amblyopia:

  • Head tilting
  • An eye that wanders inward or outward
  • Eyes that appear to not work together
  • Poor depth perception
  • Squinting or shutting an eye

Amblyopia Symptoms

As stated earlier, lazy eye can be confused with other visual impairments, so it’s crucial to notice subtle behavioural changes in your child. One clue to look out for is when you cover one of your child’s eyes, they become uncomfortable or they cry. This simple test can be done on your own by covering one eye at a time while they’re performing a visually demanding task. Caution should be used as this method is no replacement for a comprehensive eye exam.

Amblyopia Treatments

Treatment for children diagnosed with lazy eye involves using and the weaker eye during viewing to strengthen it so that normal vision results. This can be achieved by:

Patching using an adhesive patch worn over the stronger eye. This method may take weeks to months before the brain and eye develop vision completely

Use of a drug called Atropine, which is placed in the stronger eye to temporarily blur vision so that the weaker eye is forced to focus on objects

Scientists are exploring whether treatments in adults can improve vision after this period of development has stopped.