Lazy eye or lazy vision refers to a serious eye condition wherein a person’s vision is affected, and they develop poor sight in one of the eyes during childhood or infancy. The condition usually gets worse if it is not treated soon enough. Lazy eye surgery is performed to treat lazy eye or amblyopia.
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What is Lazy Eye?
Lazy eye or amblyopia is an eye condition that generally affects just one eye but could, in rare circumstances, affect both eyes. It develops when there’s a disconnect between the brain and the eye, i.e., the brain cannot recognize signals from one eye. Over time, the brain begins to rely on signals from the stronger eye, weakening the latter and eventually leading to blindness.
The condition is mainly diagnosed during childhood, with doctors recommending immediate treatment – i.e., anywhere from infancy to when the child is seven years.
Over time, chances of a positive response to treatment diminish because amblyopia treatment is less effective in adults. Thanks to medical breakthroughs, amblyopia can now be treated with considerable success up to age 17.
It is not easy for parents to diagnose the condition without examination from a medical professional. This is especially true among infants. But parents can look for some telltale signs, wherein their children cannot tell if an object is near or far because of poor depth perception.
Other symptoms to look for include:
- The eye keeps wandering inward or outward
- Children tilting the head
- Children not having normal results during vision screen tests
- Eyes not coordinating when maintaining focus
- Shutting or squinting one eye to see better.
The main problem that causes lazy eye is not related to the structure of one’s eye but the connection between the eye and the brain. When a child has an eye that sees better than the other, the brain focuses on interpreting signals from the dominant eye, with the lazy eye slowly losing its ability to see.
What Leads to Lazy Eye?
There can be numerous causes of lazy eye. Some of them are as follows:
Refractive anisometropia refers to someone having substantially different refractive errors in each eye. This could occur due to nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism (a curved cornea). In such instances, one eye becomes stronger than the other.
Strabismus is a condition that causes an imbalance in muscle strength between the eyes, leading to one eye moving more freely than the other one. This causes the patient’s eyes to not track in a coordinated manner, with the eyes turning out or crossing away from one another.
When someone suffers from cloudiness on the cornea or an early cataract, it can cause one of the eyes to gain more strength over the other. Deprivation amblyopia can be quite serious in children, calling for urgent treatment to prevent them from losing their vision.
Treatments for Lazy Eye
Lazy eye surgery is not the only way to treat amblyopia. There are surgical and non-surgical treatments for this purpose.
There are plenty of non-surgical methods to deal with lazy eyes. If the underlying refractive error is the reason behind a child’s amblyopia, the doctor might prescribe them to wear glasses so that the affected eye can slowly get used to seeing everything clearly, thereby improving its overall function with time. However, if the condition is caused by strabismus, the doctor may suggest other treatment options.
Eye patches are a common solution and are usually placed over the normal eye to allow muscles in the affected eye to develop strength. Treatment length depends on numerous factors, such as the child’s age, the condition’s duration, and its severity.
The eye patches should be comfortable enough for the child to carry on with their daily activities, and they should be placed in a manner that they can’t see around the edges, including the light that filters through them. You can buy colourful and fancy patches with their favourite themes to motivate kids to keep wearing them.
If a child has glasses, you can attach patches on the lens on one side of the glass. This often comes later in the treatment after the weak eye has been regaining its strength over time. Such patches aren’t always friendly enough for kids undergoing initial treatment.
Atropine eye drops are another non-surgical way to deal with lazy eyes, as they blur vision in the dominant eye, encouraging the non-dominant eye to regain strength. These drops improve signal exchange between the brain and the eye. Eye drops are often an easier option for kids than an eye patch.
Some doctors recommend vision exercises such as games to strengthen weak eye muscles. Activities and exercises such as building blocks, word games, dot-to-dot drawing, and colouring using special workbooks are usually recommended, depending on the kid’s age. Once the lazy eye has regained strength, the doctor might suggest home-based exercises, which can be combined with other treatments.
If the doctor suspects strabismus as a reason for lazy eyes, they may suggest surgery, although there may opt for less invasive treatments until the diagnosis is confirmed. Lazy eye surgery is applicable for both children and adults. The surgery leads to the eyes lining up better and reduces the eye turn due to the muscles being tightened or loosened, as required.
There are two types of strabismus surgeries, namely recession and resection. A recession is when a doctor detaches and reattaches the eye muscle further from the front of the eye to weaken the muscle. Resection refers to removing a portion of the muscle to make it stronger.
This is a same-day procedure wherein the patient can go home on the same day and resume normal activities after resting for a few days. Sometimes, lazy eye surgeries can be cosmetic. Combined with non-surgical methods such as eye patches, surgery could reduce the risk associated with long-term vision loss.
Doctors can also remove cataracts and corneal ulcers through surgical methods and mend any tissue damage that could have occurred from an injury or accident that hurt the patient’s eye.