Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is a condition in which there is blurry or reduced vision in one or both eyes that is not correctable by glasses, contact lenses or eye surgery. Amblyopia causes more visual loss in children than all the injuries and diseases combined in this age group. Lazy eye can cause loss of two-eyed 3D vision and of depth perception but, with early detection and treatment, there is high probably of improvement or even correction. The earlier the condition is identified, the easier the treatment and the higher the rate of correction but even teenagers and adults can experience improvement. You are never too old to seek help.
Lazy eye can be caused by anything that interferes with unobstructed vision in either eye from birth to about 6 years of age, the early period of visual and brain development. In addition, if there is a lack of simultaneous or if something interferes with the use of both eyes together (known as binocular vision), it can lead what is called a “suppression” or “inhibition” response in the brain.
There are several different types of amblyopia:
Strabismic amblyopia develops when one or both eyes are not straight. One eye may turn up, down, in or out in which case the brain favors the eye that gives a more clear image and will “turn off” the other eye over time.
Deprivation amblyopia can affect on or both eyes and develops when cataracts or other conditions inhibit a person’s eye, depriving it of visual stimulus. If this condition is not detected and treated early, children can end up with very poor vision or, in extreme cases, total lose of vision.
Refractive amblyopia happens when one eye is more farsighted or nearsighted than the other eye and the brain “turns off” the one eye to deal with the discrepancy. Pediatricians, parents and teachers may not notice the issue due to the fact that the eyes could appear straight and because the functioning eye has normal vision so the child can see well enough to get by. Because it is hard to detect, this type of amblyopia in children may not be discovered until the child has a vision test. This could mean years during which the problem could be worsening.
Lazy eye can be treated successfully with both children and adults, although the earlier treatment is started, the easier it is and the more likely the condition is to be helped or cured. Neuroscience has established that something known as “neuroplasticity” which is the phenomenon that the human brain can change at any age. It is therefore it is recommended that anyone with lazy eye seek professional help in order to improve the quality of their vision, regardless of their age or the state of their vision.
If you or someone you know has lazy eye or another visual condition, seeking help from an appropriate vision care professional can make the difference of a proper diagnosis. A standard eye exam or 20/20 eye chart screening will not necessarily detect amblyopia or other conditions that could be improved or resolved with vision therapy.