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Lazy eye (amblyopia): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About lazy eye (amblyopia)

Lazy eye, also known as ‘Amblyopia’ is a term used for reduced vision, characteristically seen in one eye. This results from inadequate use of that eye during childhood. Amblyopia is a unique eye condition that arises mainly during childhood and may lead to serious visual damage, if left untreated.

Lazy eye (amblyopia): Incidence, age and sex

Amblyopia is known to affect 1 to 5% of the general population. It mainly affects children, with a higher propensity in less than 6 year olds. However, it may be diagnosed later in life in some individuals.

Signs and symptoms of lazy eye (amblyopia): Diagnosis

The signs and symptoms of lazy eye are generally vague or even absent. This leads to late diagnosis of this condition. However, some individuals may present with difficulty in three-dimensional vision due to defect in one eye. Thus, individuals with amblyopia do not have satisfactory depth perception. Moreover, visual acuity during motion may also get affected.

Amblyopia is an easily diagnosed condition. Complete and detailed examination of the eyes reveals poor vision in one eye as compared with the other. Further tests may be done to detect the underlying causes like crossed eyes or congenital cataract which may have led to poor visual acuity.

Causes and prevention of lazy eye (amblyopia)

Amblyopia is a functional eye disorder that results due to marked difference in visual acuity of both eyes. This in turn, causes suppression of the weaker eye, by the stronger eye and brain, resulting in poor transmission of image from the amblyopic eye to the brain. The most common cause of amblyopia is the presence of crossed eyes, also called ‘Strabismus’. Other causes include prominent refractive errors namely far-sightedness or near-sightedness, in one eye as compared with the other or the occurrence of congenital cataract in one eye.

Early detection and treatment of eye disorders, mainly those related to visual acuity may help in preventing amblyopia. It is recommended that a child should undergo complete eye examination, at least, once by the age of 5 years.

Lazy eye (amblyopia): Complications

Timely detection and management of amblyopia is significant in preventing any visual impairment in affected eye. Detection of amblyopia in later childhood, may lead to lasting visual damage or even functional blindness.

Lazy eye (amblyopia): Treatment

The treatment of amblyopia is done progresssively, wherein the first step is to detect and correct the underlying cause of defective vision. Strabismus may be corrected by surgical methods, which can be complemented further by eye exercises. Refractive errors, if present, need eyeglasses for adequate visual improvement.

Once the underlying cause is effectively managed, the next step includes treatment of the amblyopic eye that is done by making the normal eye non- functional temporarily. This can be achieved by either patching of normal eye or putting medicated eye drops in normal eye for blurring the vision. Such steps cause suppression of the normal eye, thereby resulting in improvement of transmission of visual images from amblyopic eye to the brain. This helps in restoring its normal functionality. The treatment, if undertaken during early childhood, has encouraging outcome, leading to complete visual recovery of the affected eye.