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What is 'lazy eye' and how is it treated?

By Judith Whitehead – Contributing Writer

Even today, there are children born with Amblyopia, or a lazy eye, which is a more familiar name.

Lazy eye is poor vision that children are born with and that usually runs in family lines. If a parent, aunt or uncle had this problem, the chances become greater that this will happen to a child in that family.

The eye does not develop normal sight from birth. This condition happens to 4 out of 100 people, and, if not caught early on, the opportunity for better vision may be greatly affected.

It is recommended that all children have their eyes tested before they reach toddler age. A child will not complain that vision is poor in one eye. He or she will just go along and use the better eye to function.

It's up to parents to discover and treat a child's 'lazy eye,' Judith Whitehead says.

Amblyopia can be caused by a misaligned eye called strabismus – unequal focusing which is a refractive error – or one eye that is very nearsighted or farsighted. The brain will “turn off” the unused eye and the child will prefer to use the better eye.

Early treatment is essential before the eye becomes useless; it must be turned on in the brain.

There are a few ways to treat this condition, including wearing a patch for some of the day covering the good eye and making the brain turn on the lazy eye. The child is forced to use the poor eye to see.

Glasses may also be prescribed.

If the child refuses to wear a patch, then blurring eye drops may be put in the good eye, forcing the child to use the poorer eye.

If treatment is not started before school age, the outcome is greatly impacted. Depth perception is affected, along with eyes becoming visually misaligned and unattractive.

The eye will “wander,” since it can't focus and see.

If in later life the good eye becomes diseased or injured, there will be no backup eye that can see well.

Once discovered, the treatment needs to be enforced and consistently done by an adult. If not, the potential for usable vision will be lost.

There are ways to check a young child's' vision without them even saying a word. Refractive error can be detected with simple instruments and techniques.

Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.


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