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At Washington Vision Therapy Center, we treat a variety of common eye conditions. As the leading cause of vision loss in children, amblyopia (also referred to as a lazy eye) is serious and treatment to correct it should begin as early as possible.
What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia (a “lazy eye”) occurs when a child's vision does not develop properly. The nerve pathways from the eye to the brain are not stimulated as they should be and the result is blurry vision in one or both of the eyes. However, because the nerve pathways have not developed, regardless of the prescription placed in front of the child’s eyes, they will not be able to see clearly because the brain is not able to interpret the image.
There are three types of amblyopia. Strabismic amblyopia occurs when the eyes do not align properly. Typically if the eyes are not aligned, double vision results. However, because of the young adaptable brain, most children will learn to suppress or “turn one eye off.” Because the eye is not being used, proper vision does not develop and Amblyopia results.
Refractive amblyopia is the result of different degrees of refractive error (glasses prescription) in each eye. Similar to strabismic amblyopia, the difference in prescription need between the two eyes does not allow the two eyes to work together, so one of the visual signals becomes suppressed and proper vision does not develop. This type of amblyopia is often not noticeable unless discovered during an eye exam.
Deprivation amblyopia occurs when the eyes are deprived of visual stimulation due to cataracts or some other obstruction that causes the eye to not receive a stimulus. Again, because the child has not had the experience of clear vision, the nerve pathways that help develop clear vision do not develop.
How Our Developmental Optometrists Treat Amblyopia for Communities of Yakima, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland, WA
Depending on the type of amblyopia, the treatment options differ. The mainstay of treatment for many years has been to patch the “good” eye to force the amblyopic, or “bad” eye to develop. While patching is still often very necessary, the underlying principle that new research points to is that, although traditionally amblyopia has been thought to affect only one eye, the treatment needs to be binocular, in other words treating the way both eyes work together. Refractive amblyopia first must be treated by simply correcting the degree of refractive error (amount of glasses prescription needed) in each eye to balance each eye so that one does not have to work harder than the other. In both refractive and strabismic amblyopia the next step in treatment is to create situations that will enable the two eyes the opportunity to develop the ability to function together in a coordinated way.
For extremely young children that require patching, but may have difficulty wearing an eye patch, other options include prescription eye drops that blur the near vision in the child's strong eye. This forces the brain to use the weak eye strengthening the visual pathways to improve its degree of vision. These eye drops do have side effects that must be considered before use. Most eye doctors will consider other options first.
The vision professionals at Washington Vision Therapy Center can diagnose and effectively treat amblyopia and other eye conditions safely and efficiently. WAVTC offers services to the residents of upper and lower valley Yakima, Ellensburg, Wenatchee, Pasco, Richland and Kennewick, WA, as well as the surrounding Tri-cities and greater Yakima areas. Our staff can answer all of your questions concerning amblyopia and offer treatment plans capable of improving your vision and reducing your discomfort. Call Washington Vision Therapy today at 509-654-9256.