Amblyopia – “Lazy Eye”
What is “Lazy Eye” or Amblyopia?
Amblyopia is neuro-developmental vision condition that begins in early childhood and is characterized by a decrease in visual acuity and visual performance in one or both eyes, even when wearing corrective glasses or contacts. Amblyopia is a consequence of poor image quality during the formative period of visual development. There are three types of amblyopia:
Refractive amblyopia, caused by significant unilateral or bilateral prescriptions.
Deprivation amblyopia, caused by a disruption of image quality and blockage of light at an early age (e.g., congenital cataracts).
Strabismic amblyopia, caused by an eye turn. Please see “Strabismus” for more information.
Amblyopia is a product of impaired binocular vision and the visual signal from the brain to the “lazy eye” has been turned off.
What are the symptoms of Amblyopia?
In addition to poor visual acuity, those with amblyopia are prone to difficulties with depth perception, eye movements related to reading, and visual decision making when driving or playing sports. Other symptoms may include squinting/shutting an eye, poor eye-hand coordination, balance problems, spatial disorientation, and slower reading speed and comprehension.
It is important to note that a child with amblyopia can show no symptoms which is why an eye examination is needed to identify whether a child is at risk for developing amblyopia.
How is Amblyopia treated with Optometric Vision Therapy?
At our practice, we do NOT treat amblyopia with hours of patching or Atropine eye drops. We understand that amblyopia is a BINOCULAR problem, thus patching the “stronger eye” only teaches the lazy eye to work independently and not TOGETHER with the other eye as a team. Occlusion therapy has only been found to be moderately effective and riddled with these negative consequences:
Eyesight in the “lazy eye” improves but often regresses once patching is discontinued.
The child wearing an eye patch often experiences bullying, teasing, emotional upset, frustration, anger, and general unhappiness.
Children may resist wearing a patch because not only is it uncomfortable, but it draws attention and may affect their confidence.
Although patching can improve eyesight, often it has limited results and does not develop the patient’s normal binocular vision or depth perception.
An optometric vision therapy program aims to improve visual abilities through a series of individualized exercises that enhances binocularity (the ability for both eyes to work together as a team), eye-hand coordination, and depth perception. Eyeglasses or contact lenses may boost the effects of vision therapy if prescribed by the doctor. Vision therapy makes use of lenses, prisms, filters, and other specialized equipment during the treatment program. The length of the program can range from several weeks to several months, depending on the severity of the diagnosis and patient compliance.