Amblyopia Overview and Treatment

Amblyopia is classically thought to be non treatable after the age of 10. Current evidence suggests that treatment can have success even in adults.

Amblyopia is a condition where the eye is anatomically normal but the vision is abnormal. This can be caused by refractive error (extreme farsightedness, nearsightedness or astigmatism or a significant difference in eyes) that is not corrected early in life. Even if not corrected early in life, it is sometimes worthwhile to address the issue as an adult. Often we can help at any age.

A complete history and physical exam is necessary to diagnose amblyopia. Old records are useful as well as any information from parents, teachers, or other observers who have noted a visual difficulty in a child.

Generally the vision is good in one eye and it is difficult to uncover a deficit unless both eyes are examined individually. Simple tests can find evidence of amlyogenic conditions.

An exam can start with an autorefraction. This is an automated test for the need for glasses. Findings of an extreme prescription in one or both eyes is potentially a amblyogenic condition.

Crossing or drifting of the eyes can lead to amblyopia as well. When the eye drifts or does not have the appropriate correction (glasses or contacts) the brain never receives impulses and does not develop normal, clear vision. Any child with abnormal vision screening test results or a risk factor for amblyopia should be seen by an ophthalmologist.

Non-drug therapy for patients with amblyopia may involve stimulating visual development in the amblyopic eye. Physical occlusion (eye patching) and correcting refractive errors associated with amblyopia can be the best first steps.