Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, is a serious vision condition that is commonly, but not always, associated with advanced strabismus (crossed eyes).
When one eye has different vision than the other, the brain may begin to suppress one of the images it receives, usually from the crossed eye, so that a single image is processed, instead of two conflicting images. This is even more common should one eye be damaged from trauma or disease, or sending out of focus images compared to a dominant eye.
Amblyopia is a neurological condition, meaning that while the biological function of the eye (to receive and transmit light signals to the brain) may be perfectly normal, the loss of vision occurs in the brain itself.
If the image suppression occurs over a long enough time period, vision loss can be permanent and irreversible.
Symptoms of Amblyopia
Many symptoms are shared with strabismus, including:
- Visibly crossed eyes
- Double vision
- Issues with depth perception
Some symptoms more unique to amblyopia include:
- Decreased vision in one eye with no trauma or disease in the eye
- The need to tilt the head or squint excessively to equalize vision between both eyes
- Headaches or migraines associated with decreased vision
It is very common for symptoms of amblyopia to appear in children, however the condition can occur at any age. In children especially, if any symptoms of strabismus or amblyopia are noticed, it is important to have the child examined by an Ophthalmologist to begin corrective treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment of Amblyopia
The most effective treatment for amblyopia includes a continuing course of vision therapy to help train the lazy eye to return to normal function, used alongside vision correction such as eyeglasses or contact lenses. As well, should the amblyopia be severe enough, eye patch treatment with the dominant eye covered can also be used to help the brain recognize that the lazy eye needs to be brought to full functionality.
In very extraordinary cases, surgery may be required to realign the lazy eye, however this is often seen as a resolution of last resort.
If amblyopia is detected early and treated effectively, vision loss is preventable with many patients returning to fully functional vision. As well, with effective treatment, amblyopia may never occur again in the same patient.