New England Eye Center - Advanced Eye Care

Amblyopia

One of the most common eye disorders in children is amblyopia, sometimes known as "lazy eye." Amblyopia occurs in an eye that did not develop normal sight during early childhood. This fairly common condition is best corrected during infancy or early childhood. The visual system is fully developed after a child reaches nine years, and therefore, usually cannot be changed after that age.

The main causes of amblyopia are strabismus, refractive error and abnormal cloudiness.

Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes - crossed eyes - and is the most common cause of amblyopia. The crossed eye "turns off," and only the stronger eye is used.

A refractive error - incorrect focus in one eye - causes amblyopia because the unfocused eye turns off. this type of amblyopia is very difficult to detect, since the eyes appear normal even though one has very poor vision.

Cataracts and other eye diseases causing abnormal cloudiness can lead to amblyopia, because the clouded weaker eye will not be used, and the child will depend on the stronger eye. Anything which prevents a clear image being formed in one eye is a potential cause of amblyopia.

Treatment of Amblyopia

Amblyopia is treated by making the child use the weaker eye. This can usually be done by covering the strong eye with a patch, sometimes for long Periods of time. It is possible that after vision has been restored to the weaker eye, occasional patching may still be necessary, to maintain the improvement. The weaker eye must be strengthened to restore normal vision: amblyopia cannot be cured by treating the cause alone. The role of the parent is vital to ensure that the treatment is effective.

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