Nobody likes to pick up the slack when team members don’t do their share of the work. Or worse, being less successful because of the less-than-motivated individual. The same is true with your eyes. When you or your child has a lazy eye, it prevents you from seeing your best.
Defining lazy eye
The eyes and the brain must work together to produce the images you see as you sweep your line of sight over any given setting. Sometimes one eye that appears to be normal does not cooperate as strongly with the brain as the other eye, and the brain favors the stronger eye. The resulting condition causes vision impairment in one or both eyes.
Lazy eye, or Amblyopia, is the most common cause of decreased monocular vision in children and young adults, affecting about 3% of all children in the United States. It is a developmental vision disorder that is best treated when detected early on.
Causes of amblyopia
Typically, any condition affecting the eye’s ability to focus is what prevents the eye from making a strong connection with the visual center of the brain. These fairly common vision problems are usually responsible in young children:
- Poor alignment of the eyes (strabismus)
- Clouding of the front of the eye (cataract)
- Irregular shaped eye or lens (astigmatism)
- Nearsightedness (myopia)
- Farsightedness (hyperopia)
If one eye has a slightly different degree of near- or farsightedness, then that leads the brain to rely more heavily on the eye with crisper sight.
Treatment for better vision
Oftentimes, vision correction alone with prescription glasses or contact lenses addresses the problem in the lazy eye. Then, over time, a stronger link between the eye and the brain forms naturally. For children where amblyopia persists beyond vision correction, two stronger methods are used. Both force the child to use his or her weaker eye consistently until normal vision is reached.
- Patching—the stronger eye is physically covered daily for two to six hours with a patch that blocks vision to encourage the development of better vision in the weaker eye.
- Atropine—medicinal drops are placed in the stronger eye that temporarily blur its vision so the affected eye gradually strengthens its link with the brain.
While patching is the classic, thoroughly proven method, your child might like the drops better since they’re convenient and don’t impact his or her appearance.
The importance of discovering amblyopia early
From the day you’re born until somewhere between the age of seven and ten, your vision system changes and develops quickly. This is the time when all of the important links between your eyes and your brain are made. When amblyopia goes undetected and untreated past this age, the likelihood of having more permanent vision impairment goes up.
Treatment of young adults has proven to be somewhat effective, but more research is being done about correcting amblyopia in adults where vision development has already stopped.
One thing is for certain, having your child’s eyes checked at regular intervals from an early age onwards will prevent long-term vision problems related to lazy eye.
Schedule your child’s next eye doctor appointment with your VSP Family Plan. If you don’t have vision insurance, find out how VSP can help you save on your next eye exam or pair of glasses.