Amblyopia, the medical term for the condition often called “lazy eye,” is a common vision problem for children and is the leading cause of vision loss among kids. It occurs only in children, and it typically develops before the age of 6.
Children with amblyopia have a lack of central vision in one eye. The result is that the eyes do not work together properly, and vision overall is often blurred. If not treated, the condition can lead to long-term vision loss.
Signs and Symptoms of Amblyopia
Amblyopia is sometimes related to a child being “cross-eyed,” but often it shows no outward signs or symptoms. The child with amblyopia might be straining his or her eyes, favoring one eye over the other or bumping into things on the side with the poorly functioning eye.
There are three different types of amblyopia: Refractive amblyopia occurs when one eye has greater vision problems than the other, and the brain will begin to “shut off” that eye; strabismic amblyopia occurs when one eye turns in, out, up or down; and deprivation amblyopia is the result of a disease like cataracts depriving one of the child’s eyes of sight. The final outcome of the three types can be similar, but they vary in severity and treatment.
Amblyopia must be treated to prevent long-term vision loss, and the earlier that diagnosis and treatment occur, the better the outcome will be. Treatments for amblyopia include eye patches, vision therapy, prisms and prescription lenses. Often, some combination of these treatments will be used to attempt to correct a child’s amblyopia.
Because of the importance of catching and treating amblyopia early, vision screenings for children at regular intervals are critical. These tests are designed to detect amblyopia and other vision issues before they become a major problem for the child.
SOURCES: American Optometric Association; American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus