What is Amblyopia?

Amblyopia is an ocular condition in which the brain favors one eye over the other, which can cause the unfavored eye to misalign and/or have best corrected reduced eyesight. The common term lazy eye comes from the asymmetry of the eyes caused by the condition, which affects 2-3 of every 100 children.

A host of conditions can cause amblyopia. It is more accurate to consider amblyopia a result rather than a cause of vision problems. The various conditions that can cause amblyopia’s symptoms interfere with the coordination of the brain and the visually impaired eye, which makes patients with amblyopia excellent candidates for vision therapy.

Causes of Amblyopia

Visual disabilities that affect only one eye have the highest chance of causing amblyopia. Some of the most common issues that can cause the condition include:

  • Strabismus (Crossed Eye or eye turn) – Nerve injury or dysfunction of muscles that control the eye cause it to look in a slightly different direction than the unaffected eye.
  • Cataracts (Clouding) – clouding of the lens inside the eye from infancy disrupting the light to pass through normally.
  • Astigmatism – Slight and major deviations in the spherical curvature of the cornea or lens distorts the image that the brain processes because light cannot meet at a common focal point
  • Myopia & Hyperopia (Anisometropia) – Nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia) in only one eye (anisometropia) can cause the brain to favor an unaffected eye in instances where the affected eye doesn’t work well.

Other conditions that may affect the brain’s ability to communicate with the eye include eyelid droop, blockage from foreign objects, or trauma from injury.

In most cases, no matter the condition, the brain relies heavily on the eye not affected by the same condition. Wherever vision is better when relying on a single eye, your brain will automatically cause that eye to work harder. Over time, the response of the brain to input from the affected eye weakens, which can cause amblyopia.

Treating Amblyopia

It is most advantageous to seek treatment as soon as amblyopia symptoms are discovered for the quickest recovery  before too much adaptation takes place by the brain; however it can often be treated at any age.  The following are some of the most common types of treatment:

Vision Therapy

Careful, individualized exercises that focus on the cause of amblyopia help children’s developing brains relearn how to balance effort between both the unaffected and affected eyes. Vision therapy treatments for amblyopia must be individualized to ensure that both the cause and the condition are treated.  Vision therapy is the needed treatment on amblyopia to get lasting results as you are training the brain to use the eyes together in their natural state with both open, other treatments like patching are often supplemental to vision therapy.

Atropine

Atropine is a muscle relaxant that, when administered to the eye in drop form, temporarily blurs vision. Some doctors use atropine drops in the unaffected eye to cause the brain to use the affected eye.

Patching

Patching works similarly to atropine drops; by placing an eye patch over the unaffected eye, the brain is forced to expend effort looking out of the affected eye, which helps reinforce the brain using the affected eye.

Children who receive amblyopia treatment during their development have a solid chance of successfully eliminating the presence of amblyopia symptoms. As in adult treatment, success is highly dependent on the child’s ability to participate in treatment in a disciplined manner, but results are most often positive. To learn more about vision therapy for amblyopia, visit OCVT’s informational resource on this topic or get a complementary consultation today.

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