Only a few hours a day are now required for effective treatment

The eye disorder Amblyopia is an odd disorder because there is nothing really wrong with the eye.  The fault lies in the way the messages get from the eye to the brain. Research into this eye issue has indeed shown that amblyopia is a disorder of the brain.

If the fault in the eye is prolonged then the brain switches off its connection to that eye so that mixed messages aren’t received that might lead to things such as double vision.

As eyes develop in a child up until the age of two, both eyes work toward gaining connections to the brain and if one eye fails to “gain enough brain space” then the more developed eye takes over the job of providing images, to the detriment of the less developed eye, and gives rise to the term “lazy eye”.

Amblyopia is sometimes confused with another eye disorder called strabismus, which describes the condition of the eyes being misaligned. The confusion comes from the misuse of the term “lazy eye” in describing strabismus.

Symptoms to look for

Symptoms are very difficult to establish since of course very young children are not aware of any seeing deficiency that they may have, and cannot communicate about it.

Although strabismus and amblyopia are different disorders, strabismus being the misalignment of the eyes may itself lead to amblyopia, hence a slightly “crossed eyes” appearance may be an initial symptom.

A really good giveaway symptom is a child becoming annoyed or irritated if one eye that turns out to be the “good eye” is covered, but not so if the “lazy eye” is covered.

Treatment

If the amblyopia was caused by the eyes having different visual capacity, with one eye being either near or farsighted (called a refractive eye error) then it can be treated by optometrist prescription glasses or even contact lenses.

In almost all cases however the use of a cover up patch over the good eye to let the less developed eye catch up in development is a feature of treatment. The covering up process needs to be prolonged for a period of a number of months.

With children of course, the use of an eye patch can be a problem in terms of embarrassment and annoyance. Non-compliant difficult children can benefit from special eye drops to do the job or the use of a designed contact lens that acts as a cover patch but still actually looks normal to others – embarrassment avoided!
Recently an extensive study into patching for amblyopia revealed that only a few hours a day is required to achieve the optimal visual result.  This has revolutionised amblyopia treatment

If the cause of the amblyopia is a strabismus (turned eye) then corrective eye surgery to straighten the eye misalignment can also be an option.

Diagnosing amblyopia

The earlier an amblyopia is detected, the better!

Amblyopia is a disorder, not a disease, that will not cure itself over time, so needs effective treatment.

This is all well and good, but treatment may prove difficult with very young children; testing children’s eyes before the age of 5 or 6 can be difficult.  Without adequate eye testing treatment is likely to be inaccurate.  Luckily specialised paediatric tests do exist that allow treatment to proceed with confidence.

For a more graphic explanation of amblyopia see the following video:

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6 Comments

  • by Amit Posted June 5, 2014 5:35 am

    Hi Jim,
    I need to find a specialist regarding Amblyopia in QLD (Townsville).I am 30 yrs. and have tried most methods but no progress and having vision issues with my normal eye. I had to start wearing glasses.

    Regards,
    amit

    • by admin Posted June 26, 2014 7:31 am

      Hi Amit
      Improving eyesight in one eye that has amblyopia can be a challenge. Your issue is that now that you have started to become dependent on glasses for your good eye whether this good eye my suffer permanent damage and you will not be able to function as well as you have when there were no glasses? The reality is even if you did not have amblyopia you probably would still require glasses now.

      Try these people in Townsville:
      http://www.virginiahenryoptical.com.au/

      Be very clear with them what your fears are so they can:
      1. Give you peace of mind
      2. Make you see as efficiently as possible

      Regards
      Dr Jim Kokkinakis

  • by Fiona Crowley Posted September 10, 2013 4:49 am

    Hi Jim,
    I also found this site as I am looking for a specialist regarding amblyopia. I live in Glenorie NSW 2157. Are you able to recommend someone in my area?
    Many thanks

    • by Jim Posted September 10, 2013 5:37 am

      Unfortunately there is no one within 15 kms of you. Personally my preference is to see an optometrist who has a fellowship in behavioural optometry.

      You can find the nearest practitioner to you by going to: http://www.acbo.org.au/members-directory?catid=7

      The practitioners that are best have a gold star next to their name and are titled ACBO Fellows.

      Regards
      Jim Kokkinakis

  • by Jessica Zhang Posted December 31, 2012 4:48 am

    It will be really appreciated if any one can send me the contact details for a lazy eye treatment specialist. Thank you.

    • by Jim Posted December 31, 2012 6:11 am

      Hi Jessica
      Where do you live? Hopefully we will know someone near you.

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