What Is Amblyopia?
If eye muscles are not working together properly (known as strabismus) or if one eye focuses significantly better than the other, the brain will suppress vision in one eye (either because it is blurry or considered “double vision”) and nonuse of the eye will lead to reduction in its visual acuity. The reduction in visual acuity (even to the point of blindness) is considered amblyopia.
Eyes may be directed toward different points simultaneously, also known as “lazy eye.”
Amblyopia is the effected vision in one eye, and therefore, one whose only visual impairment is amblyopia is not considered to have low vision.
The root cause of amblyopia is most often inherited, but may also be caused by disease or injury.
How Is It Diagnosed?
If a child’s eyes are misaligned after a child reaches six months of age, a parent or pediatrician should request an eye exam from a pediatric ophthalmologist. After identifying a wandering eye, the ophthalmologist will test vision in both eyes; if the visual acuity in the wandering eye is reduced due to its nonuse, amblyopia is diagnosed.
Alternatively, if a child’s eyes are screened (as they should be before the child is school age) and an optometrist or physician recognizes a significant difference in refractive errors (degree of nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism) between the child’s eyes, it may be noted that the child’s brain is likely to ignore vision in one eye, and amblyopia will result if not treated promptly.
Are There Treatments for Amblyopia?
If diagnosed early, amblyopia may improve or be corrected. The condition is treated at its root cause, whether due to significant differences in refractive errors in the eyes or due to muscle defects in length, placement, or function of the eye muscles. Amblyopia may be treated with corrective eyeglasses, eye-muscle exercises, medication, surgery, or a combination of these approaches. Young children with this condition may need to wear an eye patch over their stronger eye to force their weaker eye to function correctly.
The longer time lapses before treatment of amblyopia, the less likely it is to improve.
How Would You Describe the Eyesight of One with Amblyopia and How Will My Child Function with It?
A person with amblyopia experiences blurred vision in the affected eye. However, children often do not complain of blurred vision in the amblyopic eye because this seems normal to them.
Poor or lacking vision in one eye can affect how your child functions, though it may not. Some children find it straining to read from a chalkboard; some find it difficult to catch an oncoming ball in PE or while playing a sport, and many have some degree of difficulty with depth perception.
If you suspect your child’s education is adversely affected by his reduced visual acuity, a teacher of students with visual impairments should perform a functional vision assessment.
If you suspect your child’s mobility is adversely affected by his reduced visual acuity and lacking depth perception, an orientation and mobility specialist should conduct an orientation and mobility assessment.
These assessments will give the educational team information needed to make specific recommendations for your child’s educational and environmental accessibility.
Resources for Families of Children with Amblyopia
- Amblyopia by Prevent Blindness
- Amblyopia by the National Eye Institute
- Amblyopia by the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
- Amblyopia by KidsHealth from Nemours
- Amblyopia Q&A by VisionForKids