Amblyopia occurs when the sight in an eye does not develop appropriately during childhood. This gives rise to that eye having a lower visual acuity, which has led to this condition being popularly known as a lazy eye.
Unlike eyes suffering from myopia, hypermetropia or astigmatism, a lazy eye cannot attain normal sight by using lenses.
What causes amblyopia?
At birth children are able to see but their system of sight is not fully developed.
They have to learn to use their eyes to be able to focus on objects and see the in three dimensions.
Our sight continues developing until we are 9 to 12 years old, and at that age our system of sight is fully formed and it is not easy to modify it.
Sometimes the development of an eye is interrupted or slowed down with respect to the other. It is then when amblyopia begins to develop. It may be due to different causes:
- Alterations in the position of the eye (strabismus).
- Alterations in the eye's ability to focus caused by dioptres of myopia or hypermetropia.
- Other less frequent causes would be injuries present in the eye such as congenital cataracts, the taking of medicinal drugs or nutritional alterations.
How is amblyopia diagnosed?
It is not easy for family or relatives to detect the presence of amblyopia in a child in its early stages.
Very often, not even older children realise this as they have a healthy with which they can see perfectly.
There are some warning signs that parents should look out for: deviations in where the child is looking (sometimes when he is tired or distracted) or squinting when he comes to look at an object (above all in sun light).
Diagnosis is based on early detection that takes place in nursery and primary schools.
Every child at the age or four or five should undergo an ophthalmologic examination if he is suspected of suffering from the initial stages of amblyopia.
How is it treated?
If amblyopia is not effectively treated before the age of nine, the eye will be left with a poor level of sight, hindering many normal everyday activities that require adequate sight in both eyes.
If amblyopia is detected between the ages of 4 and 9, a series of therapeutic measures can be put under way; thanks to the great learning capacity our system of sight is privilege to at this age, which in many cases can lead to a full recovery. These measures would comprise, among others, the use of glasses and eye-patches. Sometimes amblyopia is caused by a strabismus and this may require surgery.
Parents play an important part in their children's treatment. They must always be alert, given that at these ages it is difficult for a child to collaborate.