Amblyopia is a visual disorder that affects thousands of children and is almost ALWAYS reversible when addressed in time. To understand amblyopia, it is essential to understand the visual development of infants.
Learning to see is just like having to learn to walk and talk. A newborn can see but it must learn to use its eyes in order to focus and then align to create stereoscopic vision. Vision continues to develop in the first nine years of life, after which it can no longer be modified.
Oftentimes one eye does not develop as it should in the first few years. One of the most common causes of an eye’s poor development is *strabismus* caused by poorly aligned eyes. It may also be due to the fact that one eye cannot focus as well as the other due to uncorrected nearsightedness or farsightedness in one eye and not the other. In such cases, the brain relies on the stronger eye and “tunes out” the blurred vision from the other eye, causing amblyopia in that eye from disuse.
Any eye disease that prevents a clear image to be focused in the eye can lead to amblyopia in children.
The ophthalmologist, specialist in medical and surgical visual disorders, must first discover why the brain fails to recognize the amblyopic eye and then correct the situation. They may prescribe eye glasses to correct the blurred vision, properly align the eyes or occlusion of the strong eye to force the lazy eye to do the work.
If the amblyopia is not treated, the subject will always have one eye with poor vision which cannot be improved. Parents play a key role in avoiding this outcome.
Only a qualified professional can diagnose amblyopia. Many amblyopic children appear normal and see well thanks to their strong eye. Watch for warning signs such as a sketchy eye or a child that often closes one eye (especially when it’s sunny).
If the doctor diagnoses amblyopia and prescribes glasses or occlusion, it is important to follow their directions carefully. This is not always easy with a young child. The difficult treatment period will be shorter if it is begun early.
Contrary to popular beliefs, babies do not all squint at birth. Should your child squint and if it continues for more than six months, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible. Never wait for an eye problem to solve itself “with age” as it will most likely never occur. Don’t forget: glasses can only help healthy eyes… sometimes they may mask symptoms until it’s too late.