Amblyopia: What is it and what are its symptoms?

Girl with amblyopia, with glasses and eye patch

Surely more than once you have seen a small child wearing an eye patch and you have wondered what the reason is. In most cases, it is amblyopia, a visual pathology that usually arises in childhood.

We tell you everything there is to know about amblyopia, how to detect it and how it is treated so you can identify cases near you quickly.

What is amblyopia?

Also known as lazy eye or lazy eye, it is an eye condition that affects the vision of only one eye usually, although there can also be cases in which it affects both eyes.

Approximately 3% of school-age children suffer from amblyopia and it is the most common visual disorder among children, so it is important to be aware of children’s visual health and prevent its onset if possible.

What causes amblyopia?

The main reason why amblyopia develops is that, during the visual learning phase, one of the eyes is not used enough therefore there is a decrease in the visual capacity of that eye.

Because no, people are not born watching. After spending nine months in the dark, it takes a while for the sense of sight to develop. In fact, it is not completed until we are 8 or 9 years old.

The “lazy” or “weak” eye receives fewer signals and the eyes stop working in unison. After a while, the brain simply does not interpret the signals coming from the lazy eye.

However, the first four years of life are key in visual development and learning, so it is in these that special attention must be paid.

What are the symptoms of amblyopia?

Normally, amblyopia shows no symptoms that a child might notice. Above all, in cases where only one eye is affected, the little one will not know that his vision is not as it should, therefore, he will adapt to his experience and will not complain.

In order to detect amblyopia quickly, it is crucial that all adults involved in the child’s life (parents, pediatricians, teachers, relatives, etc.) pay close attention to any signs that may raise the alarm.

  • Lack of attention in class: If you can’t see the board, you’re likely to get bored and distracted.
  • Objects , books, papers, etc. are very close to your face: if it is difficult for you to see, you will try to get closer to focus better, as if you had myopia.
  • Clumsiness that does not seem normal: Sometimes, amblyopia can cause problems in depth perception, which manifests itself with clumsiness and lack of eye-hand coordination.
  • An eye that makes abnormal movements: If the child’s eye moves abnormally

If your little one manifests any of these signs, you should take him to the ophthalmologist or an optical health facility so that he can make an evaluation of his visual health and determine if he suffers from myopia, hyperopia, amblyopia or any other visual condition.

Types of amblyopia

  • Refractive amblyopia: It usually occurs at the same time as farsightedness and, sometimes, myopia. It is due to great differences between the prescriptions of each eye, which can result in this type of amblyopia.
  • Strabismus amblyopia: This is the most common cause. When one of the muscles that position the eyes is weaker than the other and an imbalance occurs. This prevents both eyes from working together, producing amblyopia. Often, these children’s eyes tend to cross or move in different directions.
  • Deprivation amblyopia: It is the most serious case and must be treated immediately. It is caused by a deprivation of stimuli such as when there is an area of the lens that is cloudy (cataracts), which forces the other eye to make all the effort.

How is amblyopia detected?

If you suspect that a child in your immediate environment may have amblyopia, you need to take him or her to your doctor or optometrist. The ophthalmologist will perform an examination, usually dilating the pupils (it is important to take note of this since the effects last several hours and make the child much more sensitive to light and his vision is blurred).

The exam is a standard vision test in which, in addition to checking for myopia, farsightedness or another condition, visual acuity will be assessed to rule out amblyopia.

How is amblyopia treated?

The way to correct lazy eye or amblyopia is to force the eye to make the necessary effort to develop. This is achieved either by using a few drops of atropine that cloud the vision of the “good” eye or with the aforementioned patch, for several hours a day during the days that are necessary. It will also be necessary to correct the refractive error with glasses or contact lenses if it exists.

Treating amblyopia when the sense of sight is still developing, before age 5, is easier. As the child gets older this treatment and rehabilitation is more difficult.

If amblyopia is due to deprivation, due to an ocular pathology, it is necessary to operate to eliminate the cause of deprivation. However, for the rest of the cases, there are no operations for adults or children.

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