Most people have heard of amblyopia, just not by that clinical name. You’ve probably heard it called “lazy eye.” This occurs when the vision in one of a child’s eyes doesn’t develop normally. It is caused when visual information is transmitted poorly or incorrectly between the optic nerve and the brain. If left untreated, amblyopia can cause the brain to ignore information coming from the affected eye, potentially harming vision permanently.
At Millennium Park Eye Center, we can diagnose and treat amblyopia, returning your child’s vision to normal or at least vastly improving it.
What causes amblyopia?
This condition often starts when one eye has much better focus than the other. This can happen if one eye is more farsighted or has dramatic astigmatism, but the other eye has more normal vision.
In other cases, a child’s eyes don’t align properly. One could turn in or out, a condition known as strabismus. This is where the term “lazy eye” came from. This can lead to amblyopia because the eyes can’t focus together on an image, creating double vision.
Some children have trouble seeing out of one eye because a congenital cataract or a small amount of blood is blocking vision.
The brain, when faced with conflicting information from both eyes, ignores the eye that isn’t aligned, is farsighted, or whatever. As the brain ignores that eye, vision continues to deteriorate.
How amblyopia is diagnosed
This is the reason we need to see all children before they are school age, as amblyopia can lead to serious learning setbacks for a child. We recommend seeing your child at 6 months, 3 years, and then right before he or she enters school. If there are issues, we will continue to want to see the child regularly. When checking for amblyopia, here’s what we look for:
· Both eyes see equally well
· Each eye moves like it should
· Nothing blocks the light coming into either eye
How we treat amblyopia
To treat amblyopia, we force the child’s brain to start using the weak eye, to quit ignoring it. First, we’ll correct any underlying problem in the eye, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. If there is a cataract, we may recommend removing it. Most kids with amblyopia need glasses to help their eye focus.
Next, we’ll have the child wear a patch over his or her strong eye. At first, vision will not be great through only the weak/ignored eye, but it’s important to wear the patch to force the brain to use the weak eye. It may take weeks or even months, but the vision will improve. If strabismus is involved, we may recommend surgery on the eye muscles to correct it.
Amblyopia can usually be corrected, but the older the child is before we start the harder the condition is to treat. Is it time to bring your child in for his or her eye exam? Call the team at Millennium Park, (312) 996-2020, to make your appointment.