Amblyopia, also more commonly known as lazy eye, is a relatively common condition that develops in the first 5 to 6 years of life. Amblyopia is defined as a decrease in the best corrected vision (BCV) in the absence of any known ocular condition or disease. If not corrected in the first 5 to 6 years of life, it can be a permanent condition.
Amblyopia is usually caused by circumstances that block the vision through the eye and thus deprive the visual pathways in the brain from developing. These circumstances can be: 1) refractive, such Hyperopia, Astigmatism, or Myopia, 2) physical, such as ptosis (droopy eye lid), growths of the eye lid, or Strabismus, 3) heredity, 4) congenital defects such a infantile cataracts. There are many other less common conditions that can also cause lazy eye.
It is extremely important to diagnose and treat amblyopia as soon as possible since it is often reversible and correctable if treated in the first 5 to 6 years of life. The earlier it is treated, the better the chance for a return to normal vision.
The treatment usually consists of wearing a patch over the "good" eye for varying lengths of time. This forces the lazy eye to stimulate the brain and thus retrain the visual pathways in the brain to develop normally. Treatment is often combined with wearing glasses. If the cause of the lazy eye is strabismus (wandering eye), corrective surgery to straighten the eyes is necessary.
Again, it must be stressed that all children need to have eye exams starting no later that the 4th year of life. Usually pediatricians and school vision screenings are done at an earlier age, however there is no substitute for having an ophthalmologist evaluate a child’s eyes.