What to do if your child has lazy eye
A lazy eye is a childhood condition that occurs when vision in one eye does not develop properly. Not only does this result in poor vision in the affected eye, it can also cause a squint - which is where the eyes point in different directions.
Once diagnosed, there are a number of ways a lazy eye can be treated, many of which will attempt to correct underlying conditions that may be making it worse. After treatment, use of the lazy eye will be encouraged to help vision develop properly.
The success of treatment will often depend on an individual's age, with younger children usually having the best chance of overcoming the problem. Any treatments started after the age of around eight years can be harder to overcome, but there is still a possibility of success.
What treatments are available for a lazy eye?
The first stage to treating a lazy eye is to solve underlying problems that may be contributing to the condition. This can be done in several ways:
Glasses: Wearing glasses can tackle any vision problems such as short or long-sightedness. In some cases, glasses will help with a squint and may even resolve the lazy eye without further treatment.
Glasses should be worn constantly and regularly checked to ensure they are still performing effectively. Encouraging children to wear glasses can be a problem, but it is important to remain motivated.
Your child may say they see better without the glasses, however this is often because their eyes are now used to working hard to focus and allowing the glasses to do this for them may feel uncomfortable.
Contact lenses are an option for lazy eyes, although they are best suited for older children.
Further treatment: There are surgical approaches for helping to correct a lazy eye. One option is to try to tackle a squint by weakening or strengthening the muscles in the affected eye to change its position. While this will not help with vision, it may encourage the eyes to work better together.
Surgery may also be required to remove cataracts. This will help treat blurred and distorted vision and can be carried out quickly under local or general anaesthetic.
Eye drops may be prescribed and the use of an eye patch is often recommended following the procedure.
Using the lazy eye: Once the underlying conditions have been tackled, it is time to begin encouraging use of the lazy eye. Covering the good eye with an eye patch or applying eye drops are the most common methods for doing this.
Eye drops cause the pupil to dilate, which blurs near vision. An eye patch prevents the good eye from being used at all. Both methods of treatment can be effective and the one you choose will often be a matter of preference.
If you decide to opt for an eye patch, it is important that it is worn for several hours a day for at least a few weeks. Close-up activities such as reading and writing are also encouraged while wearing the patch.
It can be difficult to get some children to co-operate with wearing an eye patch, so it is important to ensure they remain motivated during the treatment period. The more they cooperate, the quicker the treatment will work and the eye patch can be removed.
It is very important to comply with the instructions of your optometrist, as to ensure the desired results from treatment, so parents or children need to stick to the preferred method.
This article was written for Kidspot by Specsavers