What is Lazy Eye and How Can It Be Treated?

Lazy eye, also called amblyopia, is a type of vision impairment that usually affects only one eye, but it can affect both eyes in some rare cases.

This eye health problem develops when there is a breakdown in how the brain and eyes work together, and the brain cannot recognize sight from one eye. 

As time progresses, the brain increasingly depends on the stronger eye, leading to a deterioration in vision for the weaker eye.

The reason behind the name “lazy eye” is that the stronger eye works better than the eye with amblyopia, which is also classified as strabismus.

But people with amblyopia cannot control the way their eyes work, so this does not mean that they are actually lazy, but rather that it is a health condition that is out of control.

Symptoms of lazy eye

According to what was shared by the American National Eye Center , the problem of amblyopia, or lazy eye, begins to appear in childhood, and is the most common cause of vision loss in children. 

According to the same source, up to 3 out of every 100 children suffer from this problem related to the quality of vision. 

It should be noted that early treatment works well and usually prevents vision problems in the long term.

However, at the same time, it may be difficult to notice the symptoms of amblyopia, while children who suffer from this problem may have difficulty distinguishing depth, meaning the inability to distinguish between something if it is close or far away.

Parents may also notice signs that their child is having difficulty seeing clearly, such as:

  • around the eyes
  • Close one eye
  • Tilt their head in the direction of the affected eye

In many cases, parents do not know that their child has lazy eye until a doctor diagnoses it during an eye exam. 

For this reason, it is important for all children to get a vision test at least once between the ages of 3 and 5 years, as it is an appropriate way to know the health of their eyes.

Risk factors that lead to infection

Some children are born with amblyopia, and others develop it later in childhood, but there are a group of causes that clearly lead to the condition, which are as follows:

  • Premature birth 
  • Birth size smaller than average 
  • A family history of strabismus, childhood cataracts, or other eye diseases
  • Being born with developmental disabilities

There are numerous instances where the underlying causes of amblyopia remain unidentified; factors beyond those already mentioned could influence this condition.

Normally, the brain uses nerve signals from both eyes to see, but if an eye condition makes vision in one eye worse, the brain may try to overcome it. 

It is precisely at this stage that the brain begins to “turn off” the signals from the weaker eye and rely only on the stronger eye, which leads to lazy eye.

Some cases of amblyopia

There are a group of conditions that appear when lazy eye occurs , which pose major problems with vision and vision in general.

Among these problems we find refractive errors, which include some common problems such as myopia (difficulty in seeing far away), farsightedness (difficulty in seeing things up close), and astigmatism (which can cause blurry vision). 

These problems are usually easy to fix using glasses or contact lenses, but if they are not treated, the brain may begin to rely more on the eye with stronger vision, which means lazy eye.

This vision problem can lead to strabismus; Normally, the eyes move together as a pair, but in children with amblyopia, the eyes do not line up together. One eye may drift in, out, up, or down.

People with this problem may also develop cataracts, which causes clouding of the lens and makes objects appear blurry. 

While most cataracts occur in older people, infants and children can also develop cataracts when exposed to lazy eye.

Diagnosis and treatment methods

As part of a normal vision examination, your pediatrician will look for signs of strabismus; All children between the ages of 3 and 5 need to have their vision checked at least once.

As for the type of treatment, if there is a vision problem that causes squint, the doctor may treat that first. 

For example, doctors may recommend glasses or contact lenses (for children with nearsightedness or farsightedness) or surgery (for children with cataracts).

The next phase involves retraining the brain to rely on the weaker eye, enhancing its use to strengthen its function progressively.

Types of treatments include:

Covering the normal eye with an adhesive patch (similar to a bandage), in order to force the brain to use the weaker eye for vision. 

Some children need to wear the patch for only two hours a day, while others may need to wear it when they are awake.

Special eye drops can also be placed in the stronger eye; One drop of atropine once daily can temporarily blur near vision. Which forces the brain to use the other eye. 

For some children, this treatment works as well as an eye patch, and some parents find it easier to use (because younger children may try to remove the eye patch).

After a child begins treatment, his or her vision may begin to improve within a few weeks, but it will likely take months to get the best results. 

After that, the child may still need to use these treatments from time to time to prevent the return of the lazy eye problem, and to completely recover from it.

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