My goal as a Pediatric Ophthalmologist, is to make sure that every child in Miami and beyond has the opportunity to enjoy the amazing colors of a “Cotton Candy” Florida sunset. In Florida fewer than 20 percent of preschool children are currently screened for vision problems and a least one child in every classroom will be diagnosed with Amblyopia. Whenever I must deliver a diagnosis of amblyopia, or lazy eye, to a child’s parents, they typically have a lot of concerns. Can it be cured? Will it permanently impact their vision? What does the outlook look like for my child?
It’s completely understandable for parents to have these concerns, of course. Amblyopia is a condition with long-term implications both for a child’s vision and physical appearance. Luckily, I can offer parents many assurances about the condition, as well.
For one, amblyopia is quite common. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it impacts between 2 and 4 percent of all children up until age 15. It also is treatable, and many children with amblyopia experience improved vision and eye appearance after treatment.
There is one very important message here for parents, though. The absolute best outcomes for amblyopia occur with early detection and treatment. That’s why regular vision screenings and treatment are critical as soon as amblyopia is detected in your child.
Amblyopia can sometimes be difficult to pin down, as it can present differently in different kids. It also varies widely in nature and severity, and sometimes can’t be detected without an eye exam.
Nonetheless, there are some symptoms for parents and their doctors to be on the lookout for, according to the Mayo Clinic, and they include the following:
- Your child squints, frequently shuts one eye, or tilts their head.
- Your child’s eyes do not appear to work well together, such as one eye moving inward or outward.
- Poor depth perception.
- An eye exam that produces abnormal results.
Any of these signs may be an indicator of amblyopia, which typically develops before the age of 7. If you notice any of these signs, or they appear on a vision test, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a vision specialist for a formal diagnosis and treatment right away.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Amblyopia can be detected during a standard eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), doctors will screen for amblyopia by checking each eye to determine if vision is different between the two.
The primary method for correcting amblyopia is to force the child to use their weaker eye more in order to strengthen it. This is frequently done using an eye patch, eye drops to blur vision in the stronger eye or glasses that blur vision in the stronger eye.
Fixing amblyopia can be a lengthy process that can take anywhere from several weeks to several years, but it cannot be emphasized enough how critical it is for your child’s future vision and well-being. Left untreated, amblyopia can cause permanent vision problems, as well as an unusual physical appearance with the eyes. Simply put, treating amblyopia is a classic case of short-term compromise for long-term gain.
Another common question I get about amblyopia is whether the condition can be prevented. The truth is that the best prevention is to be proactive and to take steps to keep the condition from getting worse over time. This is accomplished by making sure your child has regular eye exams and immediately seeking treatment if any conditions are detected.
No child in Florida should go silently blind from visual disorders such as Amblyopia that we all know how to detect, screen and treat. Join us in being champions for our children’s vision and beyond.