When your eye doctor tells you that your child has amblyopia, you probably have a lot of questions. What does this mean for your child's future? What are your treatment options? Read on to learn the answers to these and other common questions about this eye condition.
What is amblyopia, and what causes it?
Commonly known as lazy eye, amblyopia is a condition in which one of the eyes is not communicating with the brain properly. The affected eye appears normal, but it does not move normally. The condition often occurs as a result of one eye being shaped in such a way that makes it hard for light to focus on the retina. Instead of trying to focus the eye, the brain just ignores the weaker eye and focuses the stronger one. Thus, the affected eye stays "looking" down or to the side while the other, unaffected eye, focuses on an object.
How does someone with amblyopia see?
A child with amblyopia typically sees normally with the unaffected eye. The vision in the "lazy" eye is blurry, but the brain does not focus on this information. It focuses on the healthy eye and essentially "turns off" the lazy eye.
What is the prognosis for lazy eye?
The earlier your child is treated, the better the outcome will be. Many people are able to enjoy perfectly normal focus and vision if amblyopia treatment is started when they are infants or toddlers. If treatment is not received early, the child will likely gain some improvement from the treatment, but the affected eye may always be somewhat weaker.
What does treatment involve?
The recommended treatment will depend on the severity of the amblyopia. In most mild to moderate cases, placing a patch over the "good" eye will force the brain to utilize the "lazy" eye, eventually strengthening the muscles in that eye so that it will focus properly. Most children wear a patch for a few months to a year.
If your child's amblyopia is severe, your eye doctor may recommend surgery to help realign the eyes. Some children with amblyopia are also born with cataracts. If this is the case, your child will need to have the cataracts removed, too. After surgery, your child will need to wear glasses to correct his or her vision, and patching may still be required for a while.
While it can be scary to have your child diagnosed with amblyopia, rest assured that with the proper treatment from an optometrist, he or she will overcome this condition and go on to live a perfectly normal, healthy life.