What is Amblyopia
Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is a condition where vision does not develop properly during early childhood.After the age of seven to eight years, the development of the part of the child’s brain that processes vision is almost complete. If the brain has not received clear images from the weak eye prior to that, it would be difficult to improve vision in that eye after the visual part of the brain developmentis complete. The eye is then said to be “amblyopic” or “lazy”. If left untreated, visual impairment can become permanent.
What causes Amblyopia?
The main causes of amblyopia are uncorrected high refractive error (astigmatism, hyperopia, myopia), large differences in refractive power between the two eyes, and/or squint (strabismus). A minority are due to conditions that obstruct vision, such as droopy eyelids and childhood cataracts.
How is Amblyopia diagnosed?
Amblyopia is typically detected during an eye check-up since the child is usually too young to complain of poor vision. This should be carried out around the age of four by an ophthalmologist.
How is Amblyopia treated?
To correct amblyopia, the child needs to be encouraged to use the lazy eye. This is usually done by patching the good eye, often for several hours a day.Patching therapy may take months or even years, and is often more effective when it is started at a younger age. The basis of patching is to allow the lazy eye to be used more often than the other eye so that the lazy eye gets a chance to develop normal vision. If spectacles are required, the child must wear it at all times.
When amblyopia is detected too late (beyond 8 years old), it may not be possible to reverse the visual impairment. It is therefore important that you have your child’s eyes checked if you suspect a visual problem, or are advised by the school health services to consult an ophthalmologist
Eye Care Tips for Children
• Start young. Even from early childhood, ensure your child learns good eye care habits.
• Encourage outdoor sports daily e.g. cycling, rollerblading, badminton, basketball, etc. Playing ball games outdoors allow your child to focus his/her eyes on a wide range of objects that are both far and near.
• Avoid or minimise the exposure of young children to handheld devices, computer games or TV, as these activities not only increase the risk of myopia, but they can quickly become addictive, reduce attention span, learning and creativity, and may also lead to frequent tantrums.Take frequent eye breaks from near work or computer screen and look out the window into the far distance every 20-30 minutes. This breaks any accommodative (focusing for near vision) spasm and helps relax the eyes.Read with good or natural lighting which may be protective against myopia.Do not lie down to read or read in moving vehicles.Plan a daily home schedule or timetable for your child so that there is time (1-2 hours) allocated for outdoor activities.Spend time exploring and discovering the wonders of nature, e.g. bird watching, picnic by the seaside, going on nature walks, etc.
• Switch to audiobooks for the avid readers. Listening and even making audio books improve listening skills, pronunciation