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Amblyopia, often called "lazy eye," is poor vision or reduced vision in an eye that didn't develop normally in childhood. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the condition is one of the most common causes of vision problems in children. If left untreated, amblyopia can mean a lifetime of poor vision in one eye that cannot be improved. (Read about "The Eye")
To understand amblyopia, one must understand the basics of how babies develop sight. Like walking and talking, seeing is a learned behavior. A newborn can see, but has to learn to use its eyes to focus and then coordinate both eyes into a stereoscopic system. But if an image is not clear in one eye, or if the image isn't the same in both eyes, the vision pathways from the eyes to the brain won't develop correctly. (Read about "The Brain")
AAO lists three major causes of amblyopia:
Some conditions, such as Turner syndrome (Read about "Turner Syndrome"), also increase the risk of amblyopia.
Sometimes it is not easy to recognize amblyopia. Unless the child has a misaligned eye, or other obvious abnormality, there is often no way for parents to tell that something is wrong. The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that children have a comprehensive optometric exam at the age of six months, and again at age three or four. (Read about "Eye Exams") AOA says "lazy eye" will not go away on its own. By the time a child is 8 to 10, the brain's vision system is complete and can't be changed. If not treated, the "lazy" eye may become functionally blind.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) the earlier treatment begins, the faster and better the result. AAFP says with early diagnosis and treatment, the sight in the lazy eye can be restored. To correct amblyopia, the weaker eye must be made to work. AAO lists several treatments:
Some recent studies have suggested that eye drops can be as effective as patching. Patching, however, remains the main treatment.
Patching is hard work. Many children object to wearing a patch that can be uncomfortable. Prevent Blindness America has a few tips for parents:
If the patching is proving impossible, it may be reasonable to take some time off before trying again. As long as the child is still young, there should be time to reverse the amblyopia. Talk to your doctor!
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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