Understanding Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
Amblyopia, or ‘lazy eye’, is poor vision in an eye that does not develop normally during childhood. Vision loss occurs because pathways between the brain and eye are not properly stimulated during development. As a result, the brain does learn not to see from one eye and can lead to impaired vision if left untreated.
Types of Amblyopia
There are several different causes of amblyopia, all of which can result in vision loss:
- Refractive- large or unequal amount of refractive error between the two eyes
- Strabismic- misalignment between the two eyes causing them to drift outwards or inwards
- Deprivation- the eye is ‘deprived’ of vision by conditions that do not allow light to enter the eye including cataracts and droopy eyelids
A child with amblyopia may not complain of blurry vision because of the way the brain has learned to perceive images during development. Additionally, the ‘lazy eye’ may not appear any different than the normal eye. Vision screening is often the only way amblyopia is detected.
Some symptoms of amblyopia may include:
- An eye that drifts outward or inward
- Eyes that appear not to work together
- Poor depth perception
Although amblyopia usually affects one eye, it is possible to develop the condition in both eyes.
One of the most important treatments for amblyopia is correction of any underlying refractive errors with glasses or contact lenses. Other treatments include stimulating the weaker eye by blurring the better-seeing eye with patching or eye drops. Surgery may be needed to repair strabismus or correct conditions that may block vision, including cataracts.