Amblyopia is the medical term for what is known as “lazy eye.” Most people think lazy eye means the eyes are crossed. Some even think that lazy eye is when one eyelid is lower than the other. But specifically, lazy eye means that one eye cannot see equal to the other. Sometimes this occurs through eye development from birth and other times it result from having crossed eyes, high prescription for glasses, or an eye disease at an early age. If undetected, it can result in permanent legal blindness. About 3% of the population has amblyopia.
In early childhood, the signs of amblyopia can only be determined by careful examination of a child’s eyes. From birth through 6 months of age, the pediatrician checks the eyes to make sure that normal visual development is occurring. If problems are suspected prior to age 6 months, the child can have a complete eye examination. After age 6 months, the child can be seen by an eye care provider on a regular basis to ensure that proper development continues and no eye disease or need for glasses is present. Parents most times do not know their child has amblyopia, so it is always advised that the child’s eyes are closely monitored during the first 6 years of life.
When the child is old enough to talk, it is easier to elicit if there are visual problems and therefore amblyopia treatment can be implemented. Once the child is 12, if amblyopia has developed it may be more difficult to correct. If glasses are required, the child’s vision may improve by giving the correct prescription. Or, if the eyes do turn in or out, surgery or patching the eyes may be the way to resolve the problem. If left untreated, amblyopia will not improve on its own. It will result in permanent visual problems and poor depth perception. Early treatment for amblyopia can prevent this from occurring.
If you know someone with a real “lazy eye”, make sure they have their eyes checked early. Amblyopia can also be inherited, so if you have lazy eyes, make sure your children are checked and monitored closely from birth.
I am Dr. Parker and I am an Optometrist who specializes in developmental visual problems such as amblyopia.
I invite you to visit EnVision Eye Care if you are in need of an eye care provider.