A Rundown on Amblyopia (also known as “Lazy Eye”)
The Blueberry Pediatrics Blog

A Rundown on Amblyopia (also known as “Lazy Eye”)

Dr. Lyndsey Garbi and Tigist Demeke
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Does your child have Amblyopia?

Here are some symptoms: 

  • Poor depth perception – trouble telling how near or far something is
  • Struggling to see clearly
  •  Squinting
  •  Shutting one eye
  •  Tilting their head 

What is Amblyopia exactly?

Amblyopia, also known as “lazy eye” is a disorder of sight where the brain starts to favor input from one eye over the other eye. About 2/100 children have it and it is the most common cause of vision loss in kids. The brain and eye work together to translate what is being seen by the eye. When the brain struggles to understand vision from the weaker eye it starts to depend solely on the stronger eye to send it signals. This in turn causes eyesight in the weaker eye to worsen. The name “lazy eye” comes from the fact that the stronger eye has better vision and works better than the other eye so the weaker eye gets “lazy.” 

Causes for Amblyopia

Doctors don’t exactly know what directly causes amblyopia, but it is most likely derived from differences in eyesight in both eyes. The nerve signals in our brains control our eyesight, but when there is something affecting the vision in one of the eyes, the brain tries to create a loophole around it. It blocks signals from the amblyopic eye and focuses its nerves on the stronger eye.

Below are some conditions in the eye that can lead to amblyopia:

  • Refractive Errors: Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism can usually be treated with glasses or contacts, but without treatment, the brain relies on the stronger eye more.
  • Cataracts: This makes the eyesight appear as “cloudy,” and blurry. This condition is often found in older people, but young children can also develop cataracts.
  • Strabismus: Kids with strabismus usually have eyes which don’t line up. One of the eyes may drift up, down, out, or in.

Risk factors for your child:

  1. Early Birth (Prematurity)
  2. If your child is smaller at birth than the average child
  3. Having family members with the same medical condition
  4. Some developmental disabilities 

How might my doctor treat my child?

Treatment options may vary. The doctor will always look for signs of amblyopia during vision screening at their yearly exams. Children within the ranges of 3-5 years old will have to get their eyes checked at least once. 

  • If there is an underlying problem with your child’s vision causing amblyopia, your child’s doctor will treat that first. Most of the time, the treatment is as simple as wearing glasses or contacts (depending on if your child is far or near-sighted).
  • An eye patch: Having to wear an eyepatch on the stronger eye helps the brain to use more of its strength on the weaker eye and improve its vision long term. The length of time with the eye patch will depend on the severity of the amblyopia and how long it takes for the weaker eye to get stronger.
  • Putting prescribed eye drops in the stronger eye will temporarily blur the vision for anything near, which also forces the brain to rely on the amblyopic eye. This method could be an easier alternative for your child, since they might try to pull off the eyepatch.

The treatments aren’t fast-acting, but after a couple of weeks, your child’s vision should start to slowly improve. In order to get improvement for your child’s eye to be healthy, patience is required, as it might take a couple of months in order to do so.

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