What is Amblyopia? - Amblyopia Eye Doctors Atlanta, Georgia
Amblyopia is the decrease of vision in one eye which is otherwise a healthy eye. It occurs when a child prefers to use one eye and stops using, or “shuts off”, the other eye. There are two common types of Amblyopia. One is due to a misalignment of the eyes (turning in or turning out). The other is due to an unequal eyeglass prescription between two eyes.
If Amblyopia goes undetected and as the child learns to see, the eye that is crossed, wandering, or blurred, sends an unclear image to the brain. In turn, the brain ignores the unclear or double image, and soon the child unconsciously stops using the weaker eye. The result is that Amblyopia or “lazy eye” often develops in the eye that is not being used, leaving the child nearly blind for life if the condition goes untreated. The treatment, which is usually successful, is frequently a patch over the stronger eye to make the weaker eye work.
The goal of treatment: To achieve optimal vision in each eye. With a combined team effort of the child, the doctor, and most importantly, the parents, this goal can be achieved. The best present you can give your child is the gift of good vision in both eyes.
Part of your child's routine eye examination involves checking the child for nearsightedness and farsightedness. Mild farsightedness is actually common in young children and does not necessarily interfere with their vision. Children have a special ability to “auto-focus” the eyes by themselves to clear their vision, and in many cases, they do not need glasses to correct farsightedness.
Children who exhibit a greater amount of farsightedness may sometimes develop crossed eyes. When the child tries to “auto-focus” to see clearly, they may not be able to keep the eyes straight at the same time. Because farsightedness is caused by focusing, it is easily treated by prescribing glasses. Children who are more farsightedness may develop crossed eyes anywhere from age 1 to around age 5, and it is important that they are monitored carefully.
Anisometropia is a refractive vision disorder that is characterized by inequality of the refraction between the two eyes. Instead of each eye having the same degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness as the other, one has a greater amount. It is common for there to be a small difference between the two eyes; in that case, Anisometropia usually does not affect the way the eyes see and does not need to be corrected. However, a greater degree of Anisometropia makes it very difficult for the child to use his or her eyes together, and the eyes are out of balance. The child will depend on the better eye, and the vision in the other eye will deteriorate from lack of use. To prevent this, we commonly prescribe glasses to balance out the two eyes.
Sometimes children with Anisometropia will develop Amblyopia or decreased vision in one eye. Wearing glasses helps improve the child's vision, but often patching the dominant eye is needed to help the vision improvement in the other eye. The combination of glasses and the patch is very effective in promoting the development of good vision in both eyes.
Parents frequently ask if glasses will be needed when the child gets older. The answer is that it depends on how much difference there is between the two eyes and what changes occur as the child grows. We do see children who “outgrow” their glasses, and we also see children who do not need the correction on a long-term basis. These children are often ideal candidates for wearing contact lenses to keep the eyes balanced and maintain optimal vision.
Astigmatism is an unequal curve of the front surface of the eye that can cause the child's vision, both distance, and close-up, to be blurry. This is a very serious problem that may worsen over time, but it also frequently may improve.
Glasses are not necessary for astigmatism unless the vision becomes significantly blurry. However, it is important that the child sees as well as possible, and glasses may be prescribed to correct astigmatism, as well as any nearsightedness or farsightedness.
Children and adults with astigmatism may choose to have their vision corrected with contact lenses. In the past, many patients with astigmatism were told that they could not wear contact lenses, however, now both soft and gas permeable lenses specially designed to correct astigmatism are available. In many cases these lenses are successful depending on the amount of astigmatism the patient has.