Amblyopia begins during infancy and early childhood. In most cases, only one eye is affected. But in some cases, reduced visual acuity can occur in both eyes.
Particularly if lazy eye is detected early in life and promptly treated, reduced vision can be avoided. But if left untreated, lazy eye can cause severe visual disability in the affected eye, including legal blindness.
It’s estimated that about 2 to 4 percent of the U.S. population has some degree of amblyopia (the same in Italy).
Signs and Symptoms
Because amblyopia typically is a problem of infant vision development, symptoms of the condition can be difficult to discern. However, a common cause of amblyopia is strabismus (eye misalignment).
Another clue that your child may have amblyopia is if he or she cries or fusses when you cover one eye.
Have your child’s eyes examined as recommended to make sure he or she has normal vision in both eyes and that the eyes function together properly as a team (click here)
There are three types of amblyopia, based on the underlying cause:
- Strabismic amblyopia. Strabismus is the most common cause of amblyopia.
- Refractive amplyopia (or anisometropic amblyopia). Sometimes, amblyopia is caused by unequal refractive errors in the two eyes, despite perfect eye alignment. amblyopia in that eye from disuse.
- Deprivation amblyopia. This is lazy eye caused by something that obstructs light from entering and being focused in a baby’s eye, such as a confgenital cataract.
- Treatment of strabismic amblyopia often involves strabismus surgery to straighten the eyes, followed by eye patching and often some form of vision therapy to help both eyes work together equally as a team. Patching may be required for several hours each day or even all day long and may continue for weeks or months.
- In some cases of refractive amblyopia, normal vision can be achieved simply by fully correcting the refractive errors in both eyes with glasses or contact lenses. Usually, however, at least some patching of the “good” eye is needed to force the brain to pay attention to the visual input from the amblyopic eye and enable normal vision development to occur in that eye.
- If you have a lot of trouble with your child taking the patch off, you might consider a specially designed prosthetic contact lens that prevents light from entering the good eye but does not affect your child’s appearance.
- In some children, atropine eye drops have been used to treat amblyopia instead of an eye patch. One advantage of using atropine eye drops is that it doesn’t require your constant vigilance to make sure your child wears the patch. However, atropine does have side effects that should be considered: light sensitivity (because the eye is constantly dilated), flushing and possible paralysis of the ciliary muscle after long-term atropine use, which could affect the eye’s accomodaion, or ability to change focus.