Amblyopia is a vision problem, popularly known as “lazy eye”. This disorder can occur in one or both eyes, and studies show that around 3% of the population suffer from this eye disease.

What causes amblyopia?

Amblyopia can have several causes.

  1. The most common is the difference in the quality of the images created by the two eyes. This happens when amblyopia affects only one eye. The “lazy eye” will form a less clear image, while the “healthy” eye will form a clear image. Over time, the brain will choose to remove the less clear image, causing the eye to become amblyopic.
  2. Strabismus is another cause of amblyopia. Lack of parallelism of the two ocular axes causes one eye to move in the right direction and the other in the wrong direction. The brain will choose to rely more on the normally functioning eye, leading to amblyopia in the other eye.
  3. Various refractive errors – myopia, hypermetropia, astigmatism or presbyopia – can be causes of amblyopia. The eye with the lower refractive error tends to take up vision, while the eye with the higher refractive error is not used and becomes amblyopic.

Congenital cataract, congenital palpebral ptosis, congenital glaucoma and corneal damage are some of the organic eye problems that can cause amblyopia.

What do you need to know about amblyopia in children?

One of the most common ophthalmological disorders in children is amblyopia. Figures show that around 2-4% of children up to the age of 15 suffer from this disorder. Amblyopia in children often starts at birth and progresses until they are 7 years old. Usually only one eye is affected, but there are also rare cases where both eyes become amblyopic.

There are certain risk factors that increase the risk of young children suffering from lazy eye:

  • The child has a family history of eye disease;
  • The child was born premature, with a low birth weight;
  • The child has developmental problems.

In this respect, ophthalmological evaluation is essential up to the age of 3 (and beyond). The earlier it is detected, the easier it is to treat amblyopia in children. Therefore, if you notice that your child’s eyes are not coordinating properly, pay a visit to an ophthalmology clinic, address the problem early, when the complex connections between the eyes and the brain are not yet fully formed.

What do you need to know about amblyopia in adults?

There is a general view that amblyopia in adults cannot be treated. Nothing could be further from the truth. Advances in research and cutting-edge ophthalmologic technologies make it possible to treat amblyopia in adults. Once the type of disease is diagnosed, amblyopia in adults can be corrected optically, through glasses, computer vision therapy or surgery. The latter are designed to restore vision where adult amblyopia is caused by strabismus, convergence insufficiency and anisometropia.

How many types of amblyopia are there?

Amblyopia can be:

  1. Functional: only one eye is affected.
  2. Bilateral: both eyes are affected and one eye is more amblyopic than the other. This type occurs in patients with refractive errors, strabismus or nystagmus.
  3. Organic: occurs in the context of more severe ophthalmic diseases such as cataracts, retinopathy, retinal detachment, corneal opacity.

What are the symptoms of amblyopia?

Amblyopia in adults and children can be seen if:

  • An eye does not seem to stare, but “wanders” inwards or outwards;
  • The eyes do not move at the same time, in the same direction;
  • The eyes are not able to see clearly, in depth;
  • The patient cannot close or close one eye at a time;
  • The patient tends to tilt the head to focus with the healthy eye;
  • The patient is missing – partially or totally – the iris (suffering from aniridia);
  • Following investigation and visual screening, results are abnormal.

How is amblyopia treated?

The first step in treating the ophthalmological disorder is to diagnose the type of amblyopia. To do this, it is essential to know the family history and to carry out ocular tests to determine the cause of the disease. The chances of restoring visual acuity to the “lazy eye(s)” are very high when the disorder is diagnosed very early – that means before the age of 3.

There are several forms of treatment for amblyopia, depending on the form of the disease and the age of the patient:

Treatment is mainly non-surgical and may involve:

  1.  Wearing of occlusal glasses or contact lenses;
  2. Application of eye drops;
  3. Covering the good eye or alternately both eyes, depending on the situation, to get the patient to use their “lazy eye”;
  4. It cannot be operated on, but by the age of 7-10 years, it can be corrected. With the VTS (Vision Therapy System), the best system currently available, a recovery of over 90% can be achieved.
  5. The treatment sessions are similar to a computer game, so that they are easy for the little ones to use. The therapy consists of training the lazy eye to see smaller details and improving hand-eye coordination, spatial distance estimation and contrast sensitivity.

Not treating amblyopia affects the quality of vision in the long term. If you notice any of the above symptoms in yourself, or someone close to you, make an appointment at a specialist clinic. Dr. Holhos Ophthalmology Network is waiting for you with professional doctors and state-of-the-art industry equipment for the best care.

Text medically reviewed by Dr. Teodor Holhoș, Ophthalmic Surgeon
Written by Dr. Holhos Team

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