How is my child’s lazy eye treated?
A child’s lazy eye or amblyopia is when the vision in one eye is not developing as well as the other. Treatment of a lazy eye has to be started as soon as possible in childhood in order to establish the complicated neural connections between the eye and the brain while they are still formative. It is understood that these neural connections can still be forming up to the age of seven. Some children are still able to develop these connections even later than aged 7 years and therefore, can respond to treatment even if it has started a little bit later than 7 years old, but not as much as if they had started treatment at a very young age.
The treatment of your child’s lazy eye is going to depend entirely on the cause of it and how much the lazy eye is affecting their vision.
First of all, the doctor may recommend that your child wears glasses. This is most commonly for farsightedness or longsightedness (hypermetropia) when the child is anything between the age of two and five years. Corrective eyewear such as glasses in younger children or contact lenses as they get older can correct farsightedness, nearsightedness (myopia, shortsightedness) or astigmatism. Sometimes correcting the farsightedness also corrects any squint that is present and surgery is not required for the squint. This is called an accommodative squint (strabismus).
Eye patches can be used to stimulate the vision in the weaker eye, and your child may have to wear an eye patch over their stronger eye for about two hours a day in order to help them develop their vision.
Another form of patching can be done with a Bangerter filter, which is a special filter put on the eyeglass of a stronger eye to blur that vision and like an eye patch, it will work to stimulate the vision in the weaker eye, which then has to concentrate on seeing.
We always encourage children to wear their glasses at the same time as they have their patching and to concentrate on doing activities such as playing with an iPad, playing with their Lego, in other words, activities that require concentrated eye work. It is important that child has activity-based treatments such as drawing, playing with their iPad when they having to patch. If proper treatment is started the child’s vision with a lazy eye can start to improve within a few weeks.
In some special cases, eyedrops are used called Atropine in order to temporarily blur the vision of the stronger eye and again encourage your child to use the weaker eye. This can be offered as an alternative to eye patching in some children. The Atropine eyedrops is put in the stronger eye twice a week, and this encourages the child to use their weaker eye. Sometimes though they find there is a little bit of light sensitivity through the dilated pupil of the better eye and therefore eyedrops are only used in specific situations.
Lastly, Ms Raoof may recommend that surgery is done if your child’s eyes are wandering out or crossing in (exotropia or esotropia). Surgical repair of the eye muscles is to change their eye position so that they use the eyes better together. Also, surgery can be required if there is a cataract or a droopy eyelid.
Glasses maybe required for several years and eye patching maybe required for six months to two years. During that time they have constant monitoring by the orthoptist and Ms Raoof to ensure that the vision is developing well and is maintained.