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Lazy Eye

“Lazy eye” is the common term for a condition called amblyopia. The brain and the eye work together to produce vision as light enters the eye and is changed into nerve signals that travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Amblyopia is the medical term used when the vision in one of the eyes is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly. The eye itself usually looks normal, but is not being used normally because the brain is favoring the other eye.

Amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment in childhood, affecting approximately 2 to 3 out of 100 children.Patching can help to correct a lazy eye Unless it is successfully treated in early childhood, amblyopia usually persists into adulthood. During the first nine years of life, the visual system develops very rapidly and complicated connections between the eye and the brain are created during that period of growth and development.

Amblyopia may be caused by any condition that affects normal visual development or use of the eyes. Amblyopia can be caused by strabismus, an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes. Strabismus can cause the eyes to cross in or turn out, commonly referred to as crossed eyes.Various types of strabismus Sometimes amblyopia is caused when one eye is more nearsighted, farsighted, or has more astigmatism than the other eye. Occasionally, amblyopia can be caused by other conditions such as a cataract.

Treating amblyopia involves making the child use the weaker eye (the one with the reduced vision) in one of several ways:

  • Covering the strong eye with patches. This forces the weak eye to be used as it stimulates vision in the weaker eye and helps the part of the brain that manages vision develop more completely.
  • Glasses may be prescribed to correct errors in focusing.
  • The use of eye drops that are put in the stronger eye to temporarily blur the vision so the child will prefer to use the weaker eye.
  • If a cataract or other abnormality is the cause of the amblyopia, surgery is required to correct the problem with glasses to be used after surgery to restore focusing of the weak eye.

How to patch an infantIt’s important to remember that amblyopia cannot be cured by treating the cause alone. The weaker eye must be made stronger in order to see normally. If the problem is detected and treated early, vision can improve for most children. For this reason, it is recommended that children have their first eye exam with an ophthalmologist starting at age two years, and definitely before their fourth birthday.

Sources: www.nei.nih.gov; American Acadamy of Ophthalmology