Disease: Amblyopia and Your Child's Eyes

    Amblyopia is a condition that occurs in children when one eye has poorer vision than the other. If amblyopia is left untreated, a child's vision will not develop correctly. The child's brain, as it matures, will start "ignoring" the image coming from the bad eye. This causes vision in the affected eye to become even worse as the child becomes a teenager. Because amblyopia can result in permanent vision loss in one eye, it is important to have a child with amblyopia regularly tested by an eye doctor.

    What Causes Amblyopia?

    Amblyopia is usually starts when one eye has much better focus than the other eye. For example, one eye might be very nearsighted or have a lot of astigmatism , while the other does not. When the child's brain is confronted with both a blurry image and a clear image, it will begin to ignore the blurry image. If this goes on for months or years, the vision in the eye that sees the blurry image will start to deteriorate even further. Another possible result of the brain ignoring the poorly functioning eye is a change in the alignment of the eyes, with the poorly seeing eye turning inwards or outwards. This is why amblyopia is sometimes called "lazy eye."

    Another form of lazy eye that can cause amblyopia is called strabismus. Strabismus or ocular misalignment prevents the eyes from focusing together on an image. This can cause double vision. In order to combat this, the child's brain generally chooses to ignore the image from the deviated eye, causing the vision in that eye to eventually deteriorate.

    Other children cannot see well in one eye because there something blocks light from getting through. This could be due, among other causes, to a cataract or a small amount of blood or other material in the back of the eye.

    How Is Amblyopia Diagnosed?

    Your child's pediatrician or the vision program at school will check three aspects of your child's eye health:

    1. That your child's eyes let light all the way through
    2. That both eyes see equally well
    3. That the eyes are moving normally.
    If there's a problem in any of those three areas, the pediatrician or school nurse may recommend a visit to an eye specialist.

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