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Can I Make My Lazy Eyes Work?

Early treatment and diagnosis of amblyopia
by Clinical Associate Professor Goh Kong Yong

Mr LKC came to see me for an eye check and an answer. He was 18 and had been excited to obtain his pilot licence, a dream he had harboured since his secondary school days. But on that morning in my clinic, he was distraught as he had failed his pilot’s eye assessment.9041883_xl

“I have good health and see well all these years. Why did the doctor fail me?” he asked me in exasperation.

A detailed eye examination showed that Mr LKC has 500 degrees of myopia in the right eye, but perfect vision in the left. In fact, he could only count fingers in the right eye. Although the right eye looked perfectly normal, in reality, he was unable to see beyond 1ft. Upon further examination, I noticed that his right eye deviated to his right when his left eye was covered. This is a clear case of a ‘lazy’ eye. Only after a detailed explanation did Mr LKC realise that his left eye had been doing the ‘seeing’ for him all these years. It shocked him that it had gone undiscovered for so long. Unfortunately for him, this detection came too late for any corrective treatment. He was devastated as there was no cure with his age, and it had also dashed his dream of piloting a plane. I felt extremely sorry for this promising young man whose future would have been so different had his condition been detected early when he was a child.

What is lazy eye?

Lazy eye or amblyopia is a condition whereby the eye becomes ‘lazy’ and does not want to function. The eye appears completely normal, and this condition is usually detected only in a routine eye examination.

Amblyopia arises as a result of defective development of the visual pathways in the brain due to reduced visual stimulation from the eyes. This reduced stimulation can result from several causes such as:

  • Refractive errors (e.g. myopia, hypermetropia, or astigmatism)
  • Squint (abnormal alignment of the eyes)
  • Anything that blocks the visual pathway (droopy eyelids or cataracts) during childhood

If these conditions are not treated early, then the condition can become permanent and the eye becomes ‘lazy’. 2

 

Is my child at risk of developing lazy eyes?

Lazy eyes usually develop in children before the age of six, although some of my patients are diagnosed with this condition in their adulthood. Thus, it is advisable for your child to undergo an eye check before he/she turns six. In the eye examination, the eye specialist will answer the following concerns:

  1. Is there an uncorrected refractive error?
  2. Is there a deviation of the eye (squint)?
  3. Is there an opacity in the lens of the eye (a cataract)?

Like any medical ailment, early detection offers the best prognosis. This is even more so in the case of lazy eyes, as there is a crucial window period for treatment to be successful.  Studies have shown that the period before a child turns eight is the most promising for an effective treatment.

Thus, it is important to have your child’s eyesight checked at least once before he turns six to rule out this condition. If this condition is detected, the eye specialist can act on it immediately for a timely outcome. An eye examination at this age can also pick up any refractive error in your child. If found to be myopic (short-sighted) or hypermetropic (long-sighted), your child should be prescribed with a pair of glasses to correct this defect. In the presence of an abnormal deviation of the eye, a surgery may be required to straighten the eyes. An eye specialist will be able to advise further.1

How are lazy eyes treated?

To encourage the lazy eye to function, the child’s good eye is patched up for a few hours a day, indirectly forcing the lazy eye to work. This treatment can last for a few months to a few years, depending on the severity of ‘laziness’. To make it attractive for children, the eye patch comes in many colours with attractive designs, ranging from dinosaurs to flowers. The important thing is to utilise this crucial window period to correct any visual impairment in your child before the condition becomes irreversible.

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Clinical Associate Professor Goh Kong Yong is a Senior Consultant Ophthalmologist at Dr Goh Eye Neuro-Ophthalmic and Low Vision Specialist, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Singapore.
Posted by ezyhealth on Jul 8 2014. Filed under Eye Health. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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