Amblyopia is poor vision in an eye that did not develop normal sight during early childhood. It is sometimes called a “lazy eye.” Usually one eye is affected by amblyopia but it is possible for both eyes to be affected. It is a common condition, affecting 2 or 3 out of every 100 people. The best time to correct for this is during infancy or early childhood.
Newborn infants are able to see, but as they use their eyes during the first months of life, vision improves. During early childhood years, the visual system changes quickly and vision continues to develop. If a child cannot use his or her eyes normally, vision does not develop properly and may even decrease. After the first nine years of life, the visual system is usually fully developed and the vision usually cannot be improved.
Amblyopia is caused by any condition that affects normal use of the eyes and visual development. In many cases, the conditions associated with amblyopia may be inherited. The three most common causes are strabismus (misaligned eyes), unequal focus (refractive error), and cataracts (a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens).
Common symptoms include:
An eye that wanders inward or outward
Eyes that don't seem to work together
Poor depth perception
Squinting or shutting an eye
Difference in vision between the two eyes
Amblyopia is detected by finding a difference in vision between the two eyes. The interior of the eye will be carefully examined to see if other eye diseases may be causing decreased vision, such as cataracts, inflammation, tumors or other disorders of the inner eye.
Amblyopia cannot usually be cured by treating the cause alone. The weaker eye must be made stronger in order to see normally, which is done by the patching or covering of the strong eye a few hours a day for months or even years. Additionally, glasses may be prescribed to correct focusing errors in the eyes.
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