Amblyopia (Lazy Eye): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment & Prevention

Amblyopia Lazy Eye

What Is Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)?

Amblyopia is a type of vision disability that happens in one eye in children. It can develop when there’s not enough neural connections between the brain and eyes. It develops when there’s a breakdown in how the brain and the eye work together, and the brain can’t recognize the sight from one of the eye. Over time, the brain relies more and more on the other, stronger eye — while vision in the weaker eye gets worse.

What Happens In Amblyopia?

The most common cause of childhood vision loss is amblyopia, also called lazy eye. Up to 3 out 100 kids have it and early treatment works well with this condition avoiding long-term vision problems. Amblyopia happens when one eye becomes stronger than the other during infancy or childhood due to either genetic factors (inherited) or environmental influences such as lack nutrients while pregnant. The brain favours the better eye thereby allowing the weaker eye to get worse with time.

What Are The Types Of Amblyopia?

There are three different types of amblyopia. The type that a child can exhibit depends almost exclusively on the cause and results from suppression in one or both eyes with no visual disruption.
Types include –

Refractive Amblyopia

Refractive amblyopia is a type of vision impairment that occurs when there’s too much near-sightedness or farsightedness in one eye. This form of amblyopia may occur when there is a vision focusing difference between the two eyes. This may be caused by conditions such as astigmatism, hyperopia, or myopia. The brain only sees with the stronger eye, and as a consequence, the vision in the weaker eye does not develop.

Strabismic Amblyopia

Strabismic Amblyopia is caused by a misalignment of the eyes. The weak eye is often suppressed to prevent double vision, or diplopia. In strabismic amblyopia, the Cortical Ocular Dominance Columns remain structured even with moderate cases.

Deprivational Amblyopia

The least common type of Amblyopia is deprivational amblyopia, which can be caused by deprivation in early childhood. This condition often precedes congenital cataracts and results to permanent vision loss if left untreated.

What Are The Symptoms Of Amblyopia?

Symptoms of amblyopia can be hard to notice. Kids with amblyopia may have poor depth perception — they have trouble telling how near or far something is. Parents may also notice signs that their child is struggling to see clearly, like:

  • An eye that wanders inward or outward
  • Eyes that appear to not work together
  • Poor depth perception
  • Squinting or shutting an eye
  • Head tilting
  • Abnormal results of vision screening tests

Most of the times, parents don’t know their child has amblyopia until a doctor diagnoses it during an eye exam. That’s why it’s important for all kids to get a vision screening at least once between ages 3 and 5.

What Does Causes Amblyopia?

Amblyopia can develop from other eye and vision problems. Here are some conditions that may cause amblyopia in a child.

  • Refractive errors. These include common vision problems like near-sightedness (having trouble seeing far away), farsightedness (having trouble seeing things up close), and astigmatism (which can cause blurry vision). Normally, these problems are easy to fix with glasses or contacts. But if they’re not treated, the brain may start to rely more on the eye with stronger vision.
  • Strabismus. Usually, the eyes move together as a pair. But in kids with strabismus, the eyes don’t line up. One eye might drift in, out, up, or down.
  • Cataract. This causes cloudiness in the lens of the eye, making the vision blurry. While most cataracts happen in older people, babies and children can also develop cataracts.
  • Dropping eye lids – A dropping eye lid can block the child’s vision leading to amblyopia.

How Amblyopia Is Diagnosed?

If one of your children has poor eyesight, it is important to be aware that they may not have true Amblyopia. Amblyopia can develop due to many causes including: genetic factors; growing up with glasses or contacts which gave them an incorrect vision in one eye, infections near the brow area causing inflammation and scarring where tears are produced.

The ophthalmologist will perform a complete medical eye exam, looking for other problems that could be affecting vision. Poor vision in one eye does not always mean the child has amblyopia – some cases of this condition can improve with glasses.

What Are The Amblyopia Treatments?

To correct Amblyopia, a child may wear an eye patch or glasses that blur their stronger vision. In some cases, drops can be used to make the weaker eye worse and thus allow for better focusing on close-up tasks like reading books with small print. It generally takes several weeks to several months to strengthen vision in the weaker eye. Once the child has better vision in that eye, they may need to wear an eye patch part-time for a few years. This is because there is a chance that eye can weaken again. It is best to keep all appointments with the child’s ophthalmologist who will carefully monitor your child’s vision.

Amblyopia Treatment in Adults

Regardless of a person’s age, the visual system can be retrained due to the brain’s plasticity. Treatment is most effective when it’s administered at an early age. Generally speaking, the plasticity of the brain decreases as a person ages. However, it is still possible at any age to retrain the visual system, restore binocular vision, and correct amblyopia.

Amblyopia Surgery

In most cases, non-surgical interventions are more common than surgery for managing the causes of amblyopia. However, surgery can help to correct some of the causes but only when appropriate. These can include strabismus (crossed eyes), cataracts, refractive errors, and a droopy eyelid. Surgery may be an option for certain eye conditions that cause amblyopia. However, it doesn’t treat amblyopia itself. It treats the symptoms.

What Are The Risk Factors Of Amblyopia?

Factors associated with an increased risk of lazy eye include:

  • Premature birth
  • Small size at birth
  • Family history of lazy eye
  • Developmental disabilities

What Are The Complications Of Amblyopia?

If treatment starts too late in the early childhood, the vision loss of amblyopia might be permanent because links in the body’s visual system don’t form the way they should.

What Are The Prevention Of Amblyopia?

There is no way to prevent amblyopia or its side effects, but you can take steps to prevent it from getting worse. The best thing for a child with this condition are regular exams by an eye doctor at six months and then again before they turn three years old so that any issues may be detected early on before any permanent damage.

What Are The Exercises For Amblyopia?

  1. Pencil Push-Ups Treatment (PPT)
    1. Hold the pencil in front of you (or your child) at arm’s length.
    2. Slowly move the pencil as close to the nose as possible, without it becoming blurry or doubled.
    3. Once the pencil becomes blurry, move it away from the nose.
    4. If the pencil contains a visual element, focus on it.
    5. Repeat 5 times. Do a PPT session at least 3 times daily.
  2. Colouring within The Lines
    1. Choose a colouring book with simple pictures that have strongly delineated lines.
    2. Place an eye patch over your child’s stronger eye.
    3. Instruct them to carefully colour the objects on the page and stay within the lines.
    4. Make sure to supervise your child so that they don’t remove the eye patch.
  3. Puzzles
  4. Reading
  5. Specially Designed Video Games

Amblyopia FAQS

Q1. Can Amblyopia Be Treated In Adults

Yes, it can be treated in adults but if diagnosed at an early age, it can be cured better.

Q2. Can Amblyopia Develop In Adults

Amblyopia is very common between children aged up to 7 but it is also caused in adults.

Q3. Can Amblyopia Be Cured

Amblyopia is very much treatable in children as well as adults. With specific symptomatic treatments, amblyopia can be corrected.

Q4. Does Amblyopia Get Worse With Age

Even though the visual impairments from amblyopia begin in childhood, they can continue into adulthood with worsening symptoms if left untreated.

Q5. How To Cure Amblyopia Naturally

Amblyopia can be treated naturally with exercises but symptomatic treatment is necessary.

Q6. Can A Person With Amblyopia Drive

Amblyopic people can drive, provided the non-amblyopic eye meets the usual vision standards.

Q7. Can Amblyopia Be Considered A Disability

The vision in worse eye has to be less than 3/60 with no light perception. Then it is considered disability.

Q8. Can Amblyopia Cause Headaches

Yes. Its symptoms include lack of depth perception, difficulty seeing or reading, wandering eye, migraines and headaches.

Q9. Is Amblyopia Genetic

Yes, genetics can play a role in causing lazy eyes. In case of a family history of amblyopia (lazy eye), it is better to consult an eye doctor at two years of age

Q10. Does Mobile Use Cause Amblyopia

No, but it plays an important role in recovery. Children in recovery can have delayed response if there’s excessive usage of smartphones.

Q11. Is Amblyopia And Lazy Eye Same?

Yes, the words can be changed interchangeably.

Q12. Can Amblyopia Lead To Blindness?

Yes. If treatment isn’t provided on time or if the symptoms aren’t treated when they present themselves, it is to be noted that the patient can experience permanent vision loss.

Q13. Is My Child At Risk For Amblyopia?

A few things contribute to the risk factors. The child has to have family history of Amblyopia, or os born premature, has other disabilities.

Q14. When Should A Child’s Vision Be Tested?

Between the ages of 3 and 5, your child should have a thorough, in-person optometric eye examination to make sure his or her vision is developing properly

Q15. When To See A Doctor For Amblyopia

See a doctor if your child experienced all or some of the risk factors and the symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Amblyopia is a common cause of vision loss in children. Kids should have early and regular vision screening so providers can detect any vision problems. The only effective treatment include a patch or glasses, when started early before vision loss is severe. Most paediatricians and schools offer vision screening. Talk to your ophthalmologist if you notice any vision or eye problems in your child.
Amblyopia is treatable. If you think your child is experiencing any such symptoms or morbidities then talk to us. We are at your service.

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