Amblyopia - lazy eye

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) : Causes, symptoms & treatment

Amblyopia is also commonly known by the term a lazy eye. It arises when the eyesight in one eye is reduced because the connection between the eye and the brain is not functioning normally. On examination the eye will appear completely normal but vision is reduced because the brain is ignoring the signals transmitted from the amblyopic eye.

Amblyopia is a very common eye problem in children and if not treated early in a child’s life will lead to future visual problems with one eye.
If you suspect that your child has any type of vision problem you should contact your optician or eye doctor at the earliest opportunity.

Causes

In nearly all cases, amblyopia occurs because of an incomplete nerve signal connection between the eye and the brain. An amblyopic eye sends confusing blurred images to the visual areas of the brain. This confuses the brain and this may result in it ignoring pictures from the amblyopic eye.

The principal cause of amblyopia is a squint, turn in the eye known medically as a strabismus. Additional causes can include:

  • Congenital cataracts
  • Uncorrected long sight
  • Short sight
  • Astigmatism

Signs and Symptoms

The various signs and symptoms which can occur with this condition include the following;
Eye having turned in or out appearance. Reduced depth perception. There may also be problems with contrast sensitivity. In a lot of cases the child or parent may be unaware of the eye problem as the good non affected eye will compensate for the affected eye.

Prevention and Treatment

Future eye and vision problems from amblyopia can be prevented if the condition is diagnosed at an early stage and treatment started immediately. All children should have a thorough eye assessment before they attend primary school especially if there is a family history of lazy eyes or squints.

Treatment involves attending to the cause of the amblyopia. If there is an uncorrected vision problem such as short sight, long sight or astigmatism spectacles are prescribed. In addition the good/normal vision eye will be patched helping to develop the nerve connection between the amblyopic eye and the brain.

If the cause of the vision reduction in one eye is due to a cataract then removal of the cataract is first performed before dealing with any residual vision error.
If a child with amblyopia is treated from an early age in most cases the vision improvement will be completely successful. Delays in treating the condition until a later age of child development, for example after the age of 7 may result in only partial or even permanent vision loss in the weaker eye.

Complications

If treatment is not started at an early age complications such as permanent vision loss or a turn in the eye requiring surgical correction can result. There may also be complications if eye muscle surgery is required to straighten the eye.

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