Amblyopia – also known as “lazy eye” – is a visual developmental disorder that impacts visual acuity (how well you see). It generally develops during early childhood and is typically managed via corrective lenses.
It generally develops in one eye, though it can also develop in both. Approximately 3% of the Canadian population has some level of amblyopia.
Amblyopia Signs & Symptoms
A lazy eye generally begins its development during early childhood (including infancy). Because of this, the child is often not able to articulate the visual problem they are experiencing (highlighting the importance of regular eye exams for kids).
Amblyopia is often a result of strabismus, a relatively common eye alignment problem.
Identifying Amblyopia At Home
There are a few ways that you can test your child at home for amblyopia. These tests are not 100% accurate, but they can do a good job highlighting where visual challenges may lie. If anything, they can be used to quickly determine if there is something developing that requires further investigation.
- Cover your child’s eyes one at a time – If your child reacts negatively to this, it is a sign that they may be experiencing vision problems and are leaning on their “good eye”.
- Pay attention to how your child sits when watching TV, reading a book, or engaging in play – Leaning toward one side, or heavily favouring one eye, is an indicator of a visual issue.
Types & Causes of Amblyopia
There are three main types of amblyopia:
- Strabismic Amblyopia – Caused by strabismus, this is the most common form of amblyopia. The brain ignores the input of the strabismic eye (due to distorted or double vision), causing the eye ignored by the brain to develop amblyopia.
- Refractive Amblyopia – Caused by separate refractive errors in each eye (ie – hyperopia in one and myopia in the other). The brain will place its attention on the eye with the least amount of visual distortion, ignoring the input from the other eye.
- Deprivation Amblyopia – When light is unable to enter the eye, such as when a child is born with a congenital cataract, the eye will develop amblyopia due to disuse. Prompt treatment of the underlying issues can generally prevent deprivation amblyopia from occurring.
There is a common and popular myth that having long hair or bangs that covers an eye will cause that eye to develop amblyopia. In reality, the eye needs to be covered constantly – day and night – for amblyopia to develop.
Don’t worry if your child wants to rock a Bieber-style cut. While it may not look good (opinions differ on the Bieber-do), your child will still be able to look good.
Amblyopia is generally treated by correcting the refractive errors or other visual issue preventing proper use of the eye. Vision therapy is also commonly used to treat amblyopia due to its effectiveness without requiring surgery.