What is Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) Amblyopia also called “lazy eye” is defined as unilateral or bilateral decrease of vision where no organic cause can be identified. It can be either due to formed vision deprivation and or misalignment of eyes during childhood. Amblyopia usually affects one of the eyes, but sometimes it can also reduce vision in both eyes. In appropriate cases it is reversible by therapy, if intervened at early stage hence the importance of early eye check up. The problem starts when the pathways that carry visual senses from one of the eyes to the brain don't grow strong enough. The brain then favours the other eye, and the child’s vision does not develop normally. Amblyopia is the most common cause of vision problems in children.

What Causes Amblyopia
Children are born with very poor vision and the visual acuity improves as the child grows. Proper development of visual circuit requires a clear and focused image in both eyes since birth. If the image isn't clear in one eye, or if the image isn't the same in both eyes, the vision pathway doesn’t develop for that eye.
Blurring of vision for any reason like congenital cataract, corneal clouding, high refractive error, drooping eyelid etc and or crossing of the eyes also known as squint causes amblyopia. Children with wandering eyes may also get amblyopia.

How to recognise if your child has amblyopia
The children with amblyopia usually look normal as they carry out their day to day activities using the better eye. While a deviating eye may be easily spotted, amblyopia is usually difficult to diagnose. Only a proper eye check up and consultation with the eye doctor can confirm the diagnosis. Still there are some signs which can help you in detecting if your child has amblyopia or not
  • If a small child/infant resists covering of a particular eye.
  • If the child’s eye is turned in, out, or upwards.
  • If he/she closes one eye.

How is Amblyopia Treated
Because there are several causes of amblyopia, the treatment must match the problem. Glasses or contact lenses are required for refractive errors. Surgery may be needed for cataracts, droopy eyelids or crossed eyes. After the cause of the amblyopia is treated, the child is motivated to use the weaker eye most of the time to match the visual strength of the other eye. To make the child use the weaker eye, a patch is put over the stronger eye. Sometimes, eye drops or special glasses are used to blur the vision in the better eye. Patching duration is decided by the eye specialist depending on the child's age and vision. The treatment is given till the child attains age of 8-10 yrs or when the vision improvement ceases.

Why is early Treatment Important
The visual pathway in the brain is fully developed by 8-10 yrs. Hence the first few years of life are the most important for eyesight. The condition is treatable till age of 11 years, thereafter patching can be tried but the outcomes are not very satisfactory. Hence early detection and intervention is the main stay of successful amblyopia treatment. If the amblyopia hasn't been treated by this age, the child will have poor vision for life. It won't be possible to fix it with glasses, patching or any other treatment.
There's a small chance that using an eye patch for too long can hurt the strong eye. For this reason, children who are wearing eye patches should see their doctor at regular intervals during the treatment.

Amblyopia is a major cause of vision loss in children and if not treated in time, the decreased vision is carried on to adulthood with no chances of improvement.