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What is Amblyopia?

Amblyopia is commonly called 'Lazy Eye' and it has many causes. Vision involves not only the eye but the Visual Cortex in the brain which decodes the information collected by the eye and produces the wonderful sense that we call sight. This decoding of the raw information sent from the eye is very complex and uses lots of little tricks and shortcuts to produce an image in your mind about 25 times a second, it has to take shortcuts like this because there is simply far too much information coming from the eyes to process it all, it's also the reason why optical illusions work. Many of the tricks the brain uses to do this are not hard-wired, in other words they are not present at birth, but require 'training' by use and this usually happens by around 6 months of age. Amblyopia occurs when one eye is not presenting a clear image to the visual cortex during this critical training period which prevents these systems from developing properly and the eye then becomes Amblyopic.

What can cause Amblyopia?

As you have now discovered Amblyopia is a fairly complicated problem which involves both the eyes and the brain and it also has several causes Squints, Anisometropia and Astigmatism being the most common.

  • If your Amblyopia is caused by a Squint it is called Strabismic Amblyopia.
  • If your Amblyopia is caused by Anisometropia it is called Refractive Amblyopia.
  • If your Amblyopia is caused by Astigmatism it is called an Astigmatic Amblyopia.

If you have Amblyopia your optician will usually know the cause but many cases usually involve several factors and it may not be entirely clear which is the primary causative factor (the chicken and the egg!).

Can Amblyopia be treated?

Yes, if detected early enough it is usually possible to treat Amblyopia. Fortunately the visual cortex can still be 'trained' after the age of 6 months and although it is still debated as to what age this is possible until the age of 7 is commonly considered to be the time when the visual cortex becomes 'fixed' and no further improvement can be made. It is sometimes possible to get an improvement after this time but it is much more difficult so you should always try to have your children's eyes examined at an early age even if you do not believe they have a problem as Refractive and Astigmatic Amblyopia can easily go unnoticed until it is too late. Your Doctor or your Optician should be able to help you, it is also very important that you follow any advice given to you as all too often Amblyopia in an adult could easily have been prevented by following simple instructions like 'wear your glasses ALL the time' as a child.

How is Amblyopia treated?

Most cases of Amblyopia can be treated simply by wearing prescription glasses. Occlusion therapy, where the good eye is covered for short periods of time, to encourage the use of the Amblyopic eye may also be necessary. Your optician might advise you on occlusion therapy or you may need to attend an Orthoptics clinic for this. In cases of stabismic amblyopia corrective surgery may also be necessary in which case you will be treated by an Opthalmologist (eye surgeon). As stated earlier it is very important that you follow any advice given to you as all too many Amblyopic eyes remain that way because instructions are ignored.


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