Amblyopia is the leading cause of vision loss in children, affecting two to three out of 100 children. Even if your little one has no obvious eye problems, the condition can occur.
The good news is that amblyopia is treatable if detected early enough. Studies show improvement in the amblyopic eye's function after vision treatment or eye therapy. If not addressed, amblyopia can linger through adulthood with deteriorating symptoms.
Amblyopia, also called lazy eye, is when sight in one or both eyes does not mature correctly during childhood.
Children with amblyopia develop poor vision in one eye while the other one has clear eyesight. With time, the brain ignores the fuzzy eye and only uses the one with clear sight. The brain then learns to depend on the sturdier eye, letting the weaker one deteriorate.
Children often adjust to amblyopia and may not tell their parents about it. As a result, the condition may go undetected for years.
Several eye and vision problems can hinder the normal eye-brain working relationship and cause amblyopia. These include:
Severe shortsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism (a type of blurry eyesight) can cause amblyopia.
These errors blur vision, and the eyes send blurry images to the brain. The brain never gets accustomed to seeing clear, flawless objects, causing amblyopia in one or both eyes.
A droopy eyelid can block or interfere with a child's growing eye and cause amblyopia.
Some kids are born with cataracts, where the vision in one or both eyes is cloudy. This can keep the affected eye's vision from developing as it should and become amblyopic.
Strabismus is an eye condition where the eyes point in two various directions. One eye may be looking straight ahead while the other turns up, down, in, or out.
The child's brain ignores images from the eye that is not focusing straight to prevent double vision. If not treated, strabismus may lead to amblyopia.
Here are the signs you can look for to identify amblyopia in your child.
Regular squinting, rubbing, or closing of the eyes to help with focus
Turning or tilting their head to one side to see better
Bumping into things on one side often
You can also check your child's eyes by covering each eye with your hand, one after the other. If your child keeps pushing your hand away from one eye but not the other, it could mean that they see clearer out of one eye.
A child may be at risk of amblyopia if:
They were born prematurely or before time.
They were smaller than usual at birth.
Your family has a history of amblyopia or other eye problems.
They have growth challenges or disabilities.
Have your child's eye checked by the pediatrician before their fourth birthday. Most pediatricians examine the eyes as part of a child's health checkup. If there is any indication of an eye problem, the doctor may refer your child to an eye doctor for more tests.
To identify amblyopia in your child, visit Bernstein Center for Visual Performance at our office in White Plains, New York. You can call (914) 682-8886 today to schedule an appointment.