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August is Amblyopia Awareness Month

Lazy eye is the non-scientific term for amblyopia. The condition results from the poor development of eye teaming, which is a crucial functional vision skill that enables both eyes to work together and focus on the same point in space. When they don’t, it leads to one or both eyes not seeing clearly. Moreover, because the brain doesn’t develop the ability to see clearly in one or both eyes, the eyesight of a person with amblyopia cannot be improved with glasses alone.

Many people tend to confuse “lazy eye” with an eye turn (sometimes called “crossed eyes”). This typically occurs when one eye focuses on an object while the other points in another direction. An eye turn is a separate condition called “strabismus.”

In most cases of amblyopia, one eye just isn’t seeing as clearly as the other. This can be due to a high degrees of:

  • Nearsightedness
  • Farsightedness
  • Astigmatism
  • The presence of a constant eye turn

The brain has suppressed (or turned off) the information in one eye. This negatively impacts the development of clear vision. Normally, the brain receives two images at slightly different angles and it combines them to produce a 3D image. This is called binocular vision. But that’s not the case with amblyopia. The suppression of information from one eye negatively impacts the development of binocular vision. As a result, it seems like one eye does all the work of seeing. Thus, the other eye is characterized as “lazy.”

Amblyopia can be difficult to detect because there are no cosmetic indications. (With strabismus, for example, the eyes may be crossed or one turned outward or inward.) Also, children with the condition often don’t realize that seeing clearly with one eye and poorly with the other is abnormal. This is why it’s possible to carry the condition untreated into adulthood.

Though amblyopia doesn’t have physical signs, it does have telltale symptoms, which can include:

  • Difficulty with depth perception
  • Eye strain
  • Visual fatigue
  • Headaches

Some of these symptoms result in clumsiness or difficulty in activities like throwing or catching an object. An adult may bump into objects or may experience issues while driving and judging distances.

Amblyopia (lazy eye) in adults can be treated through three approaches. Note that one or all of these may be required. Ultimately, it will depend upon the individual diagnosis:

  • Vision therapy
  • Glasses
  • Eye patching

The good news for adults with amblyopia is that there is definitely a possibility for improved vision.

For information on what you should know about amblyopia, visit here