“Lazy Eye” in Children: Catch and Treat it Early

Amblyopia is a common vision condition affecting children. This is commonly referred to as “lazy eye.” Amblyopia affects approximately four per cent of Canadian children. This condition occurs in the early developmental years of a child’s life, generally before the age of seven to nine.

At birth, the pathways connecting an infant’s eye to the visual cortex of the

brain are not yet fully developed. These are formed during the “critical period,” which studies have shown is between six and nine years old. Anything that interferes with a clear image falling in one or both eyes during this “critical period” can result in amblyopia. Common causes of amblyopia includes strabismus (an eye turn), a significant difference in prescription between the two eyes or a high astigmatism in one or both eyes. Less common causes include congenital diseases of the eye such as cataracts.

When a condition, such as an eye turn, results in one eye not receiving a proper image, the optic nerve fibers in the affected eye fail to develop the pathways to the visual cortex in the brain. The space in the visual cortex is taken over by fibers from the other eye. This results in the turned eye becoming amblyopic, meaning the eye cannot see 20/20. If this condition persists or goes untreated beyond the “critical period,” it becomes permanent. No further treatment of any type, such as glasses, contact lenses or surgery can restore the lost vision.

The good news is the vast   majority of cases of amblyopia are completely treatable if dealt with before the “critical period.” Thus, permanent vision loss from amblyopia is almost always preventable. Treatment of amblyopia

can take on various forms, but the first step is to always correct the problem causing the eye to receive an improper image. In the case of high astigmatism or a significant difference in prescription between the eyes, glasses are prescribed. In some cases, if done early enough, the glasses alone can correct the amblyopia. However, in more severe cases or those not discovered until the child is older, glasses may not be enough to fully correct the amblyopia. In these situations, the good eye is patched to make the amblyopic eye do the work; this forces the eye to develop these missing pathways and, in most cases, the child can regain most or all of the lost vision.

THE   TAKE-HOME MESSAGE:

this condition is almost completely treatable and vision loss is almost always preventable — if your child is diagnosed and treated early enough. The easiest way to ensure this happens is to follow the Canadian Association of Optometrists recommendations for children’s eye exams. Your child should have their first eye exam by age of six months, and annually thereafter. This will allow the earliest possible diagnosis and treatment. Get your child’s eyes examined today!

The optometrists at Advance Eye Care Center are accepting new patients; please call 306-586-7036 to arrange an appointment or visit our website at www.advanceeyecarecenter.com