Amblyopia is when vision in one or both eyes does not develop properly during childhood. It is sometimes called lazy eye. Amblyopia is a frequent problem in babies and young children.
A child's vision develops in the first few years of life. Therefore, diagnosing and treating amblyopia as early as possible is essential. Otherwise, a child with amblyopia will not develop a normal, healthy vision.
Ophthalmologists diagnose amblyopia by checking to see if vision differs between the two eyes. To check a baby's or young child's vision, the ophthalmologist may cover one child's eyes and watch how well they can follow a moving object. The ophthalmologist may observe how the child reacts when one eye is covered. If one eye has amblyopia and the other is covered, the child may try to look above or below the patch, pull it off, or cry.
Poor vision in one eye does not always mean a child has amblyopia. Sometimes, wearing glasses to correct a refractive error in one eye can improve vision. Ptosis, or a droopy eyelid, can block vision in a child’s developing eye and lead to amblyopia.
Amblyopia is usually corrected by making the child use their weaker eye. This is often done by putting a patch over the child’s stronger eye. In some cases, eye drops can be used to blur vision in the stronger eye. Or the child may wear eyeglasses with a lens that blurs vision in that eye.
It takes several weeks to several months to strengthen vision in the weaker eye. Once the child has better vision in that eye, they may need to wear an eye patch part-time for a few years. This is because there is a chance that the eye can weaken again. Remember to keep all appointments with the child's ophthalmologist, who will carefully monitor your child's vision.
Treating Amblyopia for Better Lifelong Vision
When a child has amblyopia, it is important to make vision stronger in the weak eye. Even if eye problems causing amblyopia are corrected with glasses or surgery, the amblyopia itself must be treated. If not, the child may have lifelong vision problems.