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Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia also known as “lazy eye” is the lack of normal visual development in an eye, despite the eye being healthy. If left untreated, it can cause legal blindness in the affected eye.

Q: What are signs and symptoms of Amblyopia?
A: Amblyopia generally starts at birth or during early childhood. Its symptoms often are noted by parents, caregivers or health-care professionals. If a child squints or completely closes one eye to see, he or she may have amblyopia. Other signs include overall poor visual acuity, eyestrain and headaches.

Q: What causes amblyopia?
A: The most common cause of amblyopia is strabismus (intermittent or constant misalignment of the eyes). Another common cause is a significant difference in the refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism) in the two eyes. It’s important to correct amblyopia as early as possible, before the brain ignores vision in the affected eye.

Q: What treatment is available for amblyopia?
A: Amblyopic children can be treated with Vision Therapy (which often includes patching one eye), atropine eye drops, the correct prescription for nearsightedness or farsightedness or surgery. Placing a patch over the stronger eye to force the weaker eye to be used more. VT may be required for several hours each day or even all day long, and may continue for weeks or months.

These exercises help both eyes work as a team, thus forces the brain to use the amblyopic eye, restoring vision.

In some children, atropine eye drops have been used to treat amblyopia instead of patching. One drop is placed in your child’s good eye each day. Atropine blurs vision in the good eye, which forces your child to use the eye with amblyopia more, to strengthen it. One advantage of this method of treatment is that it doesn’t require your constant vigilance to make sure your child wears an eye patch.

If your child has become amblyopic due to a strong uncorrected refractive error or a large difference between the refractive errors of their eyes, wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses full-time can sometimes simply treat amblyopia. In some cases, patching may be recommended along with the new glasses or contact lenses.

In cases when the amblyopia is caused by a large eye turn, strabismus surgery may be required to straighten the eyes. The surgery corrects the muscle problem that causes strabismus so the eyes can focus together and see properly.

Amblyopia will not go away on its own, and untreated amblyopia can lead to permanent visual problems and poor depth perception. If your child has amblyopia and the stronger eye develops disease or is injured later in life, the result will be poor vision through the amblyopic eye. To prevent this and to give your child the best vision possible, amblyopia should be treated early on call Brian M. Brown, M.D., at 562-904-1989 to schedule your child’s appointment today.

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