Your child’s vision helps them learn, play, and interact with others, but eye conditions can affect their eye health. One of these conditions is amblyopia, also known as a lazy eye. Many people assume amblyopia can’t be treated, but this may not be the case.
While amblyopia can be corrected, the effectiveness of treatment depends on when it begins.
What Is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia occurs when one eye cannot see as effectively as the other. This condition is more than a vision problem—wearing glasses won’t help the eye see better.
Amblyopia usually develops in childhood, and your child may experience several symptoms. Your child may not notice any issues themselves because their brain favors their dominant eye, so watch for signs of this condition.
If they have amblyopia, your child may:
- Struggle with depth perception
- Tilt their head to see
- Have trouble with reading or writing
- Squint or shut one eye to see
How Does Amblyopia Affect Your Child’s Vision?
It’s a common misconception, but an eye with amblyopia can still see—the image is weak. The brain uses images from the eye with stronger vision, eventually relying on this eye and ignoring the other.
Vision becomes weaker in this eye because it isn’t used. Without proper treatment, the brain doesn’t use each eye equally, worsening vision.
What Causes Amblyopia?
Amblyopia occurs when something obstructs vision in the eye during development, causing the brain to ignore images from that eye. It’s common for this condition to occur when one eye needs more vision correction than the other.
Amblyopia isn’t a preventable condition because it typically develops early in childhood. However, your eye doctor can diagnose this condition as early as possible during a comprehensive eye exam. You can help protect your child’s vision by taking them for regular eye exams as they grow.
Can Amblyopia Be Corrected?
Amblyopia is treatable, but its effectiveness can depend on age. Amblyopia typically emerges in childhood, and this is when it’s best to address this condition.
Treatment for amblyopia is most effective in children under 5 years old. The connection between the eyes and the brain is still developing, so it’s easier to improve vision. These connections are formed after age 5, making it harder to improve vision.
Amblyopia is still treatable at any age—it’s just harder to improve the connection between the eyes and the brain. Approximately 50% of children 7–17 react well to treatment. Your eye doctor can always recommend the best treatment for your child.
How Can You Treat Amblyopia?
When treating amblyopia, your eye doctor can either treat the underlying problem or improve the vision of the weaker eye.
Depending on your child’s needs, your eye doctor may recommend an eye patch, atropine eye drops, or vision therapy.
Eye Patches & Atropine Eye Drops
Eye patches and atropine eye drops have the same goal, forcing the weaker eye to work.
Eye patches do this by covering the eye the brain relies on for vision. Blocking vision from this eye forces the brain to use the weaker eye, improving vision. Depending on your eye doctor’s recommendation, your child may wear an eye patch for several hours every day.
Atropine eye drops are specialized drops used to treat certain eye conditions or dilate your pupils during an eye exam. During amblyopia treatment, these eye drops block vision in the stronger eye, forcing the brain to use the weaker eye.
Vision therapy is a way to treat amblyopia using specialized exercises. A vision therapy program betters the connection between the eyes and the brain. This connection helps the eyes work together more effectively, improving vision.
A vision therapy program is personalized for your child’s vision needs and can include the use of:
- Therapeutic lenses
- Balance boards
- Electronic targets
Vision therapy involves several in-office sessions to help improve vision. The treatment length of vision therapy varies from person to person, as everyone’s eyes are unique.
Care for Your Child’s Vision
Amblyopia can significantly affect your vision, but it’s treatable with help from your eye doctor. Treatment is most effective for younger children, but anyone can improve their vision. Your optometrist is here to help. Contact us at 20/20 Vision Associates Optometry, and we can help care for you and your child’s vision. Our team can diagnose amblyopia during an eye exam and recommend a customized treatment plan for your child.