What is Amblyopia?
Lazy eye, known as Amblyopia, in medical terms is a common eye condition seen primarily in children causing poor vision in one or both eyes. An underdevelopment in the visual pathway can result in the formation of a blurry image. This visual pathway extends from the receptor cells in the eye, picking up the visual signals and transmitting it to the brain for interpretation. This amblyopia can be seen in eyes that are structurally normal. It mostly affects only one eye and rarely might involve both the eyes.
Amblyopia, or the lazy eye, can be seen in the following conditions:
If the child has a crossed eye, what we call as strabismus. Here, one eye is aligned normally while the other eye may look inward or outward while viewing an object. Here, the brain will learn to neglect the ill formed image of the misaligned eye, resulting in poor vision of that eye. A lazy eye can also be seen in any condition causing obstruction of vision such as cataract, drooping eye lids, what we call as ptosis. Here, the brain will only interpret the images from the healthy eye, resulting in poor vision of the affected eye. A lazy eye can also be seen when the refractive error, that is your power of the glasses, is largely varied in both eyes. Here, the eye transmitting the poor image is the one to be neglected by the brain and is at risk for amblyopia.
Treatment in the early years of childhood by age 7 years is most effective. Using an eye patch on the healthy eye, either full or part time of the day, can stimulate the brain to pay attention and strengthen the visual pathway in the weaker eye or the crossed eye. Here, improvement can be seen in weeks in a compliant patient, but can take months and sometimes years to achieve complete correction. Correction of an underlying refractive error appropriately and close monitoring for any changes by the ophthalmologist is required. A surgical correction maybe needed for removal of a cataract, lifting of a drooping eyelid or for correction of strabismus that is your crossed eye that is not responding to an eye patch.
Early Amblyopia Detection
Early detection is the key for successful treatment as undiagnosed or untreated amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss. Now initial eye checkups in the doctor’s office is useful and can include: checking for red reflex in a newborn. Checking if an infant can track objects till the midline and past it. Vision screening by an ophthalmologist is warranted when: your child is 4 years old and in the consecutive years to follow as a routine, if your pediatrician suspects any abnormality on physical exam, if your child has any eye symptoms or you observe abnormal eye alignment or signs of eye strain in your preschooler or toddler.
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