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Lazy Eye

Steps for correction

Lazy eye or amblyopia is a condition that develops when one eye becomes stronger than the other eye and, if not treated, often results in the "lazy" eye becoming useless. It is most commonly caused by wandering eye or significant differences between the eyes in refractive error such as astigmatism, farsightedness or nearsightedness. Three percent of children under the age of six have some form of amblyopia and, unlike most other vision problems, it is not correctable by glasses or contact lenses.

Vision Therapy

Although it's true that amblyopia detected before the age of two offers the best chance for recovery, it is also true that teens and adults who have vision therapy may gain significant improvements. Vision therapy sessions are administered by optometrists and include procedures designed to improve the brain's ability to control the following:

  • Eye teaming (both eyes moving in unison)
  • Eye focusing abilities
  • Eye movements
  • Visual processing (how the brain makes sense of what we see).

The patient's visual motor skills and endurance are developed through the use of specialized equipment including therapeutic lenses, prisms and filters. During the final stages of therapy, the patient's newly acquired visual skills become automatic through repetition and by integration with motor and cognitive skills.

Eye Patches and Eye Drops

In the practice of eye patching, the better-seeing eye is covered, forcing the "lazy" one to become stronger. It can be required for a period of time ranging from a few weeks to a year and is generally worn for four to six hours per day. Alternatively, medicated eye drops or ointment may be used to blur the vision of the good eye, forcing the weaker eye to work.

Vision Therapy and Learning Disorders

Vision therapy can result in improved visual function and can therefore better equip a student to benefit from educational instruction. It is now believed that the evaluation of students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder should include a thorough optometric examination as part of a multidisciplinary approach.

Surgery

If an individual's lazy eye is caused by cataract, the cataract must be removed. If it is caused by wandering eye and all non-surgical methods have been exhausted, then surgery can help by allowing the eyes to work together better and by getting rid of problems with double imaging. However, women of child-bearing age should be cautious. If a woman has the eye surgery to correct her lazy eye and afterwards has children, she may experience the eye reverting to how it was before the surgery.

Corrective Eye Surgery (for the Good Eye)

Some people choose to have corrective laser eye surgery to improve the vision in the eye that is not affected by amblyopia. If one eye has significant decreased vision from amblyopia, they should take some time to consider their options before pursuing laser vision correction for the other eye. Even though vision correction surgery is quite successful with few complications, people should ask themselves what they would do if they were one of the rare patients with a complication. If you lost the vision in your good eye would you be able to function in life at your current status?

Our eyes are our window into the world and should never be taken for granted. While treatment can help at any age, a shift towards comprehensive vision screening for infants and preschool children is needed, since individuals who start treatment early can get the best results.

By Karen Chamchuk

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