All of us like to laze around now and then. But what happens when your organs start becoming lazy too? Your eyes, your window to the world in particular, could become lazy. However what we call the ‘lazy eye’ is far from the fact that your eye is voluntarily too lazy to do its job. Lazy eye also known as amblyopia is yet another condition that could burden weakened vision. Dr. M Wijetunge, Retired Consultant Eye Surgeon from the Ragama Teaching Hospital, spoke to the Health Capsule regarding Amblyopia.
“Lazy eye is a condition that occurs as a result of the brain suppressing the actions of an eye which is already weak. This will enable the patient to use only one eye for vision. Since the other eye will mostly be disregarded by the brain and not used in the perception of images, it becomes the ‘lazy eye’. This eye disease creates a weakening in vision of your eyes to a certain extent,” explained Dr. Wijetunge.
Blocked by the brain
To further clarify this condition, he stressed that while the vision of one of your eyes will start weakening due to a couple of reasons, the vision in your other eye will remain normal. Your brain will only sense and respond to the signals sent by your ‘good’ eye. The signals sent by the weakened eye will be suppressed by the brain. So patients will only be able to see through their good eye and not with the eye affected by amblyopia. “This does not mean that the lazy eye is completely blind. The patient is able to see through that eye to a certain extent though good vision is hindered. Amblyopia affects just one of the two eyes in most cases. However there are instances when both eyes are affected by amblyopia,” informed Dr. Wijetunge.
Variety in laziness
According to the eye surgeon, there are 3 types of amblyopia. They are strabismic amblyopia, sensory deprivation amblyopia and isoametropic amblyopia.
He explained that strabismic amblyopia may occur secondary to strabismus. Strabismus, also known as squint eye, is yet again another vision related condition which can pave the way for amblyopia.
Next we come to the second type of the lazy eye condition known as sensory deprivation amblyopia. “This type of amblyopia plagues a person when light is unable to enter the eye and stimulate the retina of the eye,” Dr. Wijetunge stated. Therefore vision will weaken in that eye, which becomes the lazy eye, while the other eye will function as normal. This type of amblyopia can attack and hinder a person’s vision if a patient is suffering from cataracts, according to the doctor.
Finally, we come to the third type of amblyopia, which is known as isoametropic amblyopia. This causes a lazy eye (or lazy eyes) following refractive errors in the eyes giving reason to poor sight. Refractive errors that impact your vision include astigmatism, hypermetropia and metropia among others. As mentioned previously, lazy eye usually affects just one eye, but Dr. Wijetunge added that when a patient suffers from conditions like cataracts or big refractive errors in both eyes, both eyes will be subjected to amblyopia.
So the reasons for amblyopia can be listed as eyes suffering from strabismus, eye cataracts and refractive errors.
Are their symptoms?
Dr. Wijetunge mentioned that there aren’t any specific symptoms that would set off alarm bells regarding amblyopia apart from the fact that there is weakening in your vision, either in one eye or maybe both.
“Amblyopia is often diagnosed during eye check ups for other vision related problems. For example, when examining a small child’s eye for strabismus, amblyopia might be a threat and when it is detected, they are able to undergo treatment to prevent further aggravation. In the case of a squint eye, the good eye will be patched up. The patient is to use the defective eye to see which will not allow the brain to suppress the signals from that eye as the good eye will be covered (and thereby unable to see) and the patient will only be able to see objects with the defective eye. This corrects the lazy eye. This is known as squint observation therapy,” he stressed. Likewise when you visit your eye consultant especially when you suffer from the above risk factors, you will be treated in a way that amblyopia can be prevented if it hasn’t struck your eyesight yet.
“It is important to note that more small children are prone to developing lazy eye compared to adults. After the ages 9-10, amblyopia can’t be treated or cured easily. The suitable ages for lazy eye to be treated is during the ages of 3-4,” he pointed out. So it is important to detect this threat at a small age and follow appropriate treatment as directed by your eye consultant to avoid amblyopia in the future.
However it should also be said that amblyopia does not harm the eye in anyway. Dr. Wijetunge stated that the eyesight in the affected eye will be hindered to a certain extent, but the eye isn’t harmed or blinded.
Getting the eyes checked at ages 3-4 is the best option as amblyopia can easily be cured or prevented at younger ages. “So if small children face any of these risk factors such as squints, inability to see long or short distances or have the sign of eye cataract it is important to seek medical attention. In that case, through use of spectacles and other treatment, amblyopia can be prevented,” he concluded.