A is for Amblyopia. Amblyopia, or “lazy eye” is the most common cause of vision loss in children – more than all other causes combined.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What is amblyopia?
Amblyopia, also commonly called “lazy eye,” is the most common cause of vision loss in children. Vision is a function of a child’s eye and brain working correctly together. Amblyopia typically occurs when a child’s vision is blurred in one or both eyes, and the brain doesn’t properly develop vision in the weak eye or eyes. Early detection is important so that treatment can begin before the brain shuts down vision to the weak eye, or so-called “lazy eye”, and the vision loss becomes permanent.
How common is amblyopia?
Estimates of its prevalence vary, but studies have shown that anywhere from 2% to 5% of children have amblyopia, meaning it affects as many as 1 in 20 children. According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, amblyopia “is the reason for more vision loss in children than all other causes put together.”
Are there different causes for amblyopia?
Yes. Some of the different types of amblyopia include:
- Refractive amblyopia, which is typically caused when one eye has a significant refractive error caused by hyperopia (farsightedness), myopia (nearsightedness) or astigmatism (irregularly shaped pupil). Most refractive errors can be corrected with glasses. Children with refractive amblyopia may not show any visible signs of problems with their eyes.
- Strabismic amblyopia, which develops when a child has an alignment problem in one or both eyes. The medical term for misaligned eyes is strabismus, sometimes commonly referred to as crossed eyes. Sometimes the strabismus is visible, if the child appears cross-eyed or one eye is angled inward (esotropia) or outward (exotropia) or up or down. But amblyopia can also develop even if the eye is only very slightly misaligned, known as “microstrabismus,” which may not be noticed by a parent and might only be detected by photoscreening or a visual exam by an eye care professional.
- Deprivation amblyopia, which can be caused when a cataract, media opacity, ptosis (droopy eye lid), or other occlusion deprives a one or both of a child’s eyes from seeing normally.
- Bilateral amblyopia, which means a child has vision problems in both eyes. Typically, however, amblyopia is limited to just one eye.
Can pediatric vision screening detect if a child is at risk for amblyopia?
Only an eye care professional, such as a pediatric ophthalmologist, can diagnose whether a child has amblyopia, but vision screening with a photoscreener, such as the iScreen Vision Screener 3000, can detect many of the eye problems or conditions that put a child at risk for amblyopia, also known as Amblyopia Risk Factors, or ARF. Amblyopia Risk Factors include severe refractive problems, alignment problems or media opacities such as cataracts. This type of pediatric vision screening or pediatric vision testing is referred to by many different names, including, Amblyopia Vision Screening, Amblyopia Vision Testing, Pediatric Amblyopia Vision Screening, Pediatric Amblyopia Vision Testing, Lazy Eye Vision Screening, or Lazy Eye Vision Testing.
Can amblyopia be treated if it a child who fails a pediatric vision screening for amblyopia is referred to an eye care professional?
Yes. Treatments will vary, depending on the type of amblyopia and the age of the child when a potential problem is detected. If a child is screened at an early age using vision screening or vision testing for risk factors for amblyopia, or lazy eye, he or she will be referred to an eye care professional to confirm if the child is at risk for, or has, amblyopia, and can begin treatment. In some cases, eye care professional will patch a child’s “good eye” or use eye drops, such as atropine, to blur vision in the good eye to force the brain to make the proper connections in the weaker eye, or lazy eye. Some problems can be corrected with glasses. If the cause of the amblyopia is related to cataracts or droopy eye lids, also known as ptosis, surgery may be required.
At what age should amblyopia be treated?
Experts differ on the ages after which amblyopia treatment ceases to be effective, however, most studies show and most experts agree that the earlier treatment begins, the better the likely outcomes. Some studies have shown treatment after ages 6 or 7 largely ceases to be effective,while others believe treatment can be effective up to the ages of 9 or 10, by which time a child’s visual system is normally fully developed. But some studies by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have demonstrated that even teenagers up to the age of 17 may still benefit from amblyopia treatment. Because early treatment is so important, it is best to screen a child early. If the child is being screened while they are pre-verbal and still too young to use an eye chart, then using a photoscreener such as iScreen Vision, can be an ideal way to perform pediatric vision screening or vision testing for amblyopia or lazy eye.
Is amblyopia hereditary?
A family history of amblyopia or strabismus can be a risk factor for a child developing amblyopia, as can a low birth weight or a premature birth.
Pediatric Amblyopia Vision Screening & Detection
These FAQs discuss topics including: Amblyopia, Lazy Eye, Amblyopia Vision Screening, Amblyopia Vision Testing, Pediatric Amblyopia Vision Screening, Pediatric Amblyopia Vision Testing, Lazy Eye Vision Screening, and Lazy Eye Vision Testing.