What is amblyopia?
Amblyopia more commonly known as a “lazy eye” is a vision developmental disorder where an eye fails to achieve normal vision even with prescription eyeglasses or contacts. Typically beginning during infancy and early childhood, if a lazy eye is detected early in life and promptly treated, reduced vision can be avoided. But untreated lazy eye can cause permanent loss of normal vision in the affected eye.
What causes amblyopia?
There are three different types of amblyopia named for their different causes.
- Strabismic Amblyopia occurs when one eye is turned or misaligned leading to double vision. The brain will begin to ignore the visual input from the misaligned eye leading to amblyopia in that eye (the “lazy eye”). This is the most common type of amblyopia.
- Refractive Amblyopia is caused by unequal (or very high) refractive errors in the two eyes, despite perfect eye alignment. For example, one eye may have significant nearsightedness or farsightedness, while the other eye does not. In such cases, the brain relies on the eye that has less uncorrected refractive error and “tunes out” the blurred vision from the other eye, causing amblyopia in that eye from disuse.
- Deprivation Amblyopia is a lazy eye caused by something that obstructs light from entering and being focused in a baby’s eye. The most common cause is congenital cataracts, so prompt treatment of congenital cataracts with cataract surgery is necessary to prevent this amblyopia.
How do you treat amblyopia?
Each type of amblyopia will have a different approach for treatment. Strabismic and deprivation often need surgical intervention, however, refractive amblyopia does not. The treatment for refractive amblyopia first involves fully correcting the child's vision with glasses or contact lenses. After this patching or dilating the good eye is often used to force the brain to use and develop the lazy eye.