What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia is a condition of the eye that develops during childhood and causes reduced vision. Most often, this occurs when one eye fails to develop properly during the early years of childhood, or when one eye is significantly more nearsighted or farsighted than the other eye. Thus, the child learns to “turn off” or suppress the eye that is out-of-focus and depend only on the better eye to see.
What Causes Amblyopia?
Anything that causes significant blurring of vision in one eye may lead to the development of amblyopia. For instance, Strabismus is a condition where the images to each eye are not focused the same and vision becomes reliant on the image to one eye and not both eyes. Furthermore, eye conditions such as cataracts (a clouding of the lens that prevents images from being properly focused) may also lead to amblyopia.
How is Amblyopia Treated?
Before treating amblyopia, it is important to treat the underlying cause. For instance, glasses are often prescribed to improve the misalignment of eyes or to improve problems focusing. Surgery may be needed in the case of cataracts or crossed eyes.
Once the underlying cause is found, the child must learn to use the weaker eye by patching the stronger, more dominant eye. This is called occlusion therapy. Patches may be used all day or part of the day, depending on the child’s age and vision. The degree of patching necessary is decided by your eye care professional. The treatment usually continues until vision is normal or until vision stops improving.
What is my role as a parent?
Since vision develops until the age of nine, it is imperative to treat amblyopia early in life. If the amblyopia has not been treated before this age of full development, the child may never develop good vision and may even become functionally blind. It may not be possible to improve vision with glasses, patching or any other treatment past this age.
Parents have a vital role in ensuring that this does not happen to their child. If your child is diagnosed with amblyopia, it is important that the doctor’s instructions are strictly followed. Although patching your child’s eye may be a difficult task, keep in mind that you are giving your child the ability to have good vision that can last a lifetime.
Detection is the key where parents must realize that children with amblyopia look completely normal as they still use one eye to see. However, warning signs include an eye that turns in or out or up, or a child who noticeably uses one eye to see. Since parents may not be able to detect amblyopia themselves, it is important that children be seen by an eye care professional for an assessment before preschool age.