Can You Fix Lazy Eye?
Amblyopia, or lazy eye as it is more commonly known, is a loss of sight typically in one eye. The cause of lazy eye is usually from one of three things.
- Strabismus– or an eye that is crossed turning in, out or up & down
- Vision Problems- Refractive errors in the eye (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism) can create a constant blur in vision if they are high enough
- Blurred Vision In One Eye– From eye conditions like a congenital cataract that a child has from birth
The end result of all three vision problems listed above is a blurred image reaching the eye. A clear image must be transmitted to the visual cortex region of the brain for sharp, crisp, 3D vision to mature in this area of the brain. One way or another, deprivation of a clear images is the underlying cause for amblyopia. Lazy eye in toddlers and infants are the most frequent time for diagnosis. It is vitally important to diagnose lazy eye before the age of 8 to 9 years old. Treatment for lazy eye is much easier during this younger age period as the nervous system is much more malleable or has more plasticity and less resistance to change. It is the result of an eye condition but the eye therapy is ultimately reversing changes in the brain. Lazy eye in adults is much more difficult to treat. We all get fixed in our ways and part of that is brain structure. Strabismus treatment, or fixing a crossed eye is essential before this improvement can take place. Any causes of blurred vision in one eye need to be addressed first also. Occasionally I see adults with amblyopia in both eyes. In the past I saw these cases in more remote Native American populations and very impoverished regions. Today, most people I see with bilateral lazy eye problems are new immigrants from remote areas of Mexico and South America. In all cases these patients have come from areas where eye care resources were very limited and they did not have any form of eyeglasses or other eye treatments earlier in their lives. Hopefully organizations like “Optometry Giving Sight” will eliminate this problem at some point in the future.
What are lazy eye symptoms? Blurred vision in one eye is often found in eye screening tests for amblyopia. Amblyopia in children can be hard to detect since they rarely complain when blurred vision is present in one eye only. Other symptoms of lazy eye can include observing eyes that cross, problems noticing objects on the side the lazy eye, children who don’t react to 3D movies and pictures, and having some eyestrain when engaging in activities up close.
Fix Lazy Eye Naturally
While there is no true natural cure for lazy eye, we can take advantage of some of the ways in which nature operates. Since amblyopia is caused by a reduction of clarity to the image to one eye, we can use a similar scheme to reduce the clarity of image to the better eye and force the lazy eye to retrain itself. We can enhance this natural method by environmental alterations. As a child develops, they interact with the environment around them. This interaction causes further development of the child. The visual part of our world acts in the same manner. Finer and more varied visual detail is the stimulus for the neural development required to prevent a lazy eye from occurring. Part of Vision Therapy is making sure small detail visual stimulus is seen by a child that is coordinated with hand eye interaction. When a child is undergoing patching or drop therapy, adding exercises such as punching the O’s out of small words can help treat the vision loss from lazy eye. Lazy eye therapy can involve eye exercises, strabmismus treatment, wearing a kids eye patch, and more recently drop therapy. Drop therapy uses a drop that interferes with focusing for near in the good eye. Unlike the eye patches we could never get kids to wear full time ( they often came off as soon as the child reached school), drops cannot be undone by children. As far as we know today, they can be used for a few hours a few days a week unlike a patch that needs to be left on full time (which may be related to the fact that they never were worn full time). The only drawbacks of drop therapy are:
- It is not a complete cure for lazy eye. Drop therapy is great for fast gains when the vision loss of eye sight is large, but sight improvement stops before it becomes equal in both eyes.
- Anyone with eye dilation needs to wear sunglasses outdoors due to the increase in UV exposure. Just like an eye patch, most kids lose the sunglasses pretty soon after walking out the front door.
- Near Vision Blur when using eye drops for lazy eye treatment can make it difficult to read and undertake activities up close.
Other things that help:
- Fix Cross Eye– Strabismus, or crossed eyes, needs to be corrected if amblyopia therapy is going to be successful
- Fix Astigmatism-Large amounts of astigmatism need to be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses so a clear image is reaching the eye
- Fix Droopy Eyelid– While some people incorrectly assume a droopy eye is a lazy eye, at times an eye will droop enough to prevent clear vision reaching the eye. This can be a casue for lazy eye and needs to be corrected.
- Can Surgery Fix A Lazy Eye? It is not possible to fix a lazy eye with surgery. At times, surgery may be required to allow both eyes to work together and eliminate the supression of vision that can ocuur in an effort to eliminate constant double vision. By eliminating the crossed eye component the lazy eye can achieve clear vision when adequate treatment is undertaken.
Lazy Eye Fixed-The Next Cure May Come From Recent Work With Kittens
Kevin Duffy and Donald Mitchell are two vision researchers at Dalhousie University in Canada that may have found a new way to treat a lazy eye (amblyopia). They have studied kittens where a lazy eye was induced by limiting the light that reached one eye. Subsequently they have found that if the kitten is kept in total darkness where neither eye receives any light at all, the visual system resets and the amblyopia is rapidly cured. This effect is thought to be related to changes in the structural components in the visual system, versus the functional components that transmit and receive the data from visual inputs. There is a critical time period in development where this seems to work best. Whether this work will be applicable to humans is not known at this time but I would presume it will. The real question will probably be if it will be clinically effective in treatment. After all, we all would like to leave our kids locked up in a dark room at times but thankfully most people realize this is not a good idea! Since we are pretty sure deprivation during normal nighttime hours is inadequate, are there alternative methods of limiting input to both eyes on a short term or partial basis that can work? Perhaps the most important finding of this study is becoming aware of a “reset factor”. Like so many things in biology where we want to find “resets” that is a holy grail worthy of further research. Time will tell the future will really find parents leaving their kids in the dark. For me, it is usually the other way around. You can read a summary of their work in the Feb 14 2013 issue of Science Daily.