Millions of Americans suffer from amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” a condition that develops when vision in one eye is worse than the other and remains uncorrected for a period of time.
Sometimes, the eye with poorer vision “drifts” out of its normal alignment, leading to the lazy eye nickname.
Because amblyopia typically occurs in early childhood, many parents wonder if their child will outgrow it as their eyes and vision develop. Here, the team at ABC Children's Eye Specialists explores amblyopia, including the problems it can cause and why early intervention is so important.
Understanding ‘lazy eye’
There are three primary types of amblyopia: refractive amblyopia, strabismic amblyopia, and deprivation amblyopia. Each of these types involves poorer vision in one eye.
The reduction in vision interferes with normal visual signals that travel from the eye to the brain, causing vision in the affected eye to be blurry or “unclear” compared to the unaffected eye.
Refractive amblyopia is the most common type. This type results when your child needs to wear glasses, but doesn’t receive glasses early in life when the eyes are developing. Delay in treatment leads to more significant vision problems in the affected eye.
Strabismic amblyopia happens when one eye drifts out of alignment. Over time, the brain starts to ignore this eye, and the eye doesn’t “learn” to see clearly.
Deprivation amblyopia happens when a condition like a cataract or ptosis (a droopy eyelid) physically prevents light from entering the eye, interfering with visual development in that eye. It’s the most severe type of amblyopia, and without prompt medical intervention, your child can have permanent vision loss.
Why early intervention is critical
It’s true that kids can “outgrow” certain conditions as they develop, but it’s also true that many conditions don’t just go away as your child grows; instead, they can actually become worse.
Because amblyopia affects your child’s vision, it’s never OK to ignore it or take a “wait-and-see” approach: Early intervention is essential for avoiding permanent vision loss.
Your child’s visual development primarily occurs during the first seven years of life, which is why early eye exams are so important. The first few months and years are especially critical.
The longer amblyopia goes undiagnosed or untreated, the harder it will be to correct it. That’s because during those early months and years of development, your child’s eye anatomy and visual pathways are physically changing, responding to stimuli and attempting to adapt.
When those adaptations are driven by abnormalities, like amblyopia or other causes of poor vision, your child can wind up needing surgical intervention and long-term therapy to correct them. In some cases, they can develop permanent vision problems, including vision loss.
Treatment can help
Our team uses a variety of interventional treatments to help kids overcome amblyopia and improve their vision overall. Eye patches, special contact lenses, and glasses can help many kids, along with vision therapy focused on helping the “weak” eye to see better.
Remember: Any type of vision problem during childhood can have devastating and lifelong consequences for your child, including permanent vision loss.
If you suspect your child has a vision problem, call our offices to book an appointment with the team at ABC Children’s Eye Specialists in Phoenix, Mesa, and Avondale, Arizona, right away.