Amblyopia is when there is decreased vision in one or both eyes (bilateral amblyopia) and is commonly referred to as lazy eye. This eye condition presents itself in approximately 3% of Canadians.
It is possible for amblyopia to occur in adults, though it typically develops in infancy or early childhood.
When you are born you don’t have 20/20 vision yet. Your eyesight still needs to develop and does so from birth through to 6-9 years of age. If one eye does not develop properly as you grow up, the brain begins to favor the eye that is stronger and images being received from the weaker eye are ignored.
As amblyopia presents in infancy and early childhood, it can often be difficult to detect. This is because the symptoms are not always visually obvious to a child’s parents. Since young children are typically not able to, or don’t know they need to, tell us what they are experiencing with their vision, amblyopia often goes undetected.
Those with mild forms of amblyopia may not be aware they have the condition until they are tested later in life. The easily recognizable symptom of amblyopia – misaligned eyes – does not always present itself.
The symptoms of amblyopia are:
- Decreased vision in one or both eyes
- Poor depth perception
- Crossed or misaligned eyes (Strabismus)
Like many eye conditions, early detection is key to prevent amblyopia vision problems from progressing. Catching amblyopia early in a child’s life (before age 4) with regular eye exams will usually allow the eye doctor the best chance to fully correct the weaker eye. After age 4, there is an increasing likelihood of some type of permanent vision loss.
Some cases of amblyopia can be treated through the use of only eyeglasses and contact lenses.
If the poorly developed eye is not responding well, your eye doctor may recommend vision therapy. This form of treatment forces the brain to use the weakened eye by having the child wear an eye patch on the strong eye. New pathways are developed over time in the brain to the weak eye; strengthening the poor seeing eye.
In the case of strabismus, there is a chance that corrective eye surgery on the poorly developed eye may be required prior to vision therapy with an eye patch.
If you are concerned that you or your child may have amblyopia, we recommend booking an eye exam with one of our Optometrists. They will investigate your case in great detail and walk you through the available treatment options to determine the best course of action in taking care of your vision.