How is “Lazy Eye” Treated in Children?

According to the Children’s Vision Information Network (2014), approximately 2 to 3 percent of children have a “lazy eye.” What is “lazy eye?” “Lazy eye,” also medically known as Amblyopia, is a deficit (loss of vision or lack of vision) in the central vision of one eye. This condition is not related to any other eye condition. In other words, this condition occurs when one eye’s visual information does not reach the brain. It is often associated with a mild-to-severe difference in the level of nearsightedness and farsightedness between the two eyes. This eye condition is usually diagnosed between the ages of 6 months and 6 years old, however it can be diagnosed at any age. Although it does affect central vision, it does not affect peripheral vision (side vision).

When a child has a “lazy eye,” the stronger eye compensates for the weaker eye. Therefore, your child’s brain disregards images transmitted from the “lazy eye.” The cause varies, but Refractive Amblyopia (one eye is more nearsighted or farsighted than the other, therefore making it difficult for both eyes to focus together), and Strabismic Amblyopia (a crossed or wandering eye that occurs when the brain is unable to properly align both eyes, causing one eye to point in, out, up or down) appear to play significant roles in the development and progression of this condition. Symptoms may include: a tendency to “bump” into objects on the side (left or right) of the “lazy eye,” and a preoccupation with one eye. It is important to note that “lazy eye” symptoms are not always as noticeable as one would think.

Treatment may consist of: prisms, vision therapy, prescriptive lenses (contacts and/or eye glasses), and/or eye patching. Vision therapy is especially beneficial for children with a “lazy eye” because it trains both eyes to work together, which ultimately prevents this condition from becoming permanent. The key to repairing a “lazy eye” is an early diagnosis. If this condition is addressed early (during childhood), there is a greater chance of a complete recovery. As a way to identify “lazy eyes” as soon as possible, the American Optometric Association (2014) recommends that children receive a complete optometric evaluation by the age of 6 months, and another one by the age of 3 years old.

It is important to understand that your child’s “lazy eye” will not “get better” or go away on its own. If this condition is not diagnosed and treated by the age of 10, treatment is prolonged, often lasting for years. In addition, when a “lazy eye” is not identified and treated until adulthood, the chance of a full recovery is less likely. If the condition is diagnosed and treated before the age of 10, the weaker eye has an opportunity to become stronger, thus reducing your child’s risk of degeneration. If you are wondering how “lazy eye” is treated in children, you have come to the right place. This article provides you with treatments that can improve your child’s eye condition.

The following treatments are commonly used to repair a “lazy eye” in children:

Diagnosis

The first step in treating a “lazy eye” in children (pediatric Amblyopia) is to take your child to an ophthalmologist (specialized eye doctor) for a comprehensive eye evaluation. If your child has a “lazy eye,” the ophthalmologist will diagnose it, and develop a treatment plan for him/her. If diagnosed early, your child has an excellent chance of regaining use of the affected eye.

Prescription Eye Glasses

If the ophthalmologist diagnoses your child with a “lazy eye,” one of his/her first steps will probably be to prescribe eye glasses for him/her. Your child will need to wear the eye glasses all of the time (except when sleeping and resting). The eye glasses will help strengthen your child’s weaker eye.

Eye Patch

The ophthalmologist may also recommend an eye patch for your child, if he/she has a “lazy eye.” Place the eye patch over your child’s stronger eye for 2 hours a day. The purpose is to force your child to use his/her weaker eye to focus and see. This treatment is designed to improve your child’s vision by strengthening his/her weaker eye. It is important to note that it can take up to a year to see noticeable results.

Atropine Eye Drops

Another treatment that your ophthalmologist may prescribe, if your child has a “lazy eye,” is atropine eye drops. These medicated eye drops strengthen your child’s weaker eye by forcing it to work harder to see and focus. Recent research studies suggest that children that use the eye patch, along with the atropine eye drops have a 30% increase in visual acuity (vision) in the affected eye.

Eye Exercises

In mild cases of “lazy eye,” an ophthalmologist may recommend eye exercises to strengthen and improve vision in the weaker eye. Ask your eye doctor for a list of eye exercises for a “lazy eye.” The goal of this treatment approach is to help your child learn how to use both of his/her eyes together.

Considerations

In severe cases of “lazy eye,” an ophthalmologist may suggest eye surgery to repair your child’s “lazy eye.” Surgery is beneficial for children, who are experiencing physical limitations, as a result of the “lazy eye.” Moreover, this surgery is only recommended when all other treatments have failed. Eye surgery will straighten out your child’s eye muscles, and increase his/her vision in the affected eye.

References:

American Optometric Association. (2014). Amblyopia (Lazy eye). Retrieved from http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/amblyopia?sso=y

Children’s Vision Information Network. (2014). Lazy eye (Amblyopia). Retrieved from http://www.childrensvision.com/lazyeye.htm

National Eye Institute. (2005). Older children can benefit from treatment for childhood’s most common eye disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nei.nih.gov/news/pressreleases/041105.asp