Kids & Amblyopia
22 Nov 2022
Dr. Chen’s note:
Parents often ask me about their kid’s vision during an eye exam and I have found over the years that there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding when it comes to the topic of amblyopia or lazy eye. I hope that by writing this article, parents are better prepared to communicate with their eye doctor about their child’s vision and eyes.
What Is Amblyopia, and is it the same as Lazy-Eye?
Yes, Amblyopia and Lazy-Eye are one and the same condition where the eyes and brain don’t work together as they should. Kids with amblyopia will develop poor vision in one or both eyes.
Since poor vision is often in one eye, kids who have this vision problem either won’t notice it or don’t think to mention it to their parents. As a result, amblyopia might go undiagnosed for years.
The solution is often as simple as visiting the eye doctor, obtaining a pair of glasses, and doing some eye patching. The biggest concern with amblyopia is that unless it is treated early, it could lead to permanent vision loss later in life.
What happens in Amblyopia?
From birth to around age 10, a child’s eyes and brain are forming critical connections. Anything that blocks or blurs vision in one or both eyes can slow down the formation of these connections leading to vision loss.
It is important to know that this type of vision loss is due to a weak connection between the eyes and brain, not because of a blur in the eye. If this connection is not restored and corrected, it will remain weak permanently and no amount of glasses will fix the poor vision.
What Causes Amblyopia?
Strabismus: One of the most common causes of Amblyopia is Strabismus (aka. Eye-turn, cross-eyed, wandering eye). The eyes do not line up together and the eye-and-brain connection form strongly in the ‘straight’ eye and amblyopia forms in the ‘wandering’ eye. The treatments could involve alignment surgery, glasses, vision therapy, depending on the child’s specific situation.
Refractive Error: Parents often think the only cause for amblyopia is an ‘eye turn’ so they often associate them to be one and the same. However, amblyopia can also arise from a poor vision where one eye sees clearly but the other is blurry. This situation can occur in near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism. Fortunately, amblyopia arising from uncorrected vision is treated with a simple pair of vision-correcting glasses and some eye patching with very good outcomes.
Other Causes: While rare, there are other causes of amblyopia such as the presence of vision-obstructing conditions in the eyes. For example, a child with congenital cataracts.
What should you do as a parent?
The first step when it comes to kids is to have them see an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye examination. This service is covered either entirely or partially by MSP on an annual basis starting from 6 months all the way up to the day the child turns 19.
Where does Evergreen Optometry come into all of this?
At Evergreen Optometry we offer comprehensive eye exams to kids of all ages and this service is considered fully covered by MSP.
We also offer amblyopia management, myopia control* (another blog post to come), and emergency visits. These types of visits are also fully covered by MSP at Evergreen Optometry.
*myopia control procedures offered at the clinic include medicated drops, soft contacts, and specialty spectacle lenses.