What is amblyopia?
Amblyopia or “lazy eye” is the result of poor vision early in life. This is commonly caused by misaligned eyes (strabismus) and/or a difference in focus between the eyes (longsighted, short sighted, or astigmatism).
Less common causes include droopy lid (ptosis) or a cloudy lens (congenital cataract). In these cases, surgery may be required to correct the condition before treatment of the amblyopia begins.
Amblyopia is most successfully treated before eight years of age. Therefore, it’s important to start treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment consists of wearing glasses, when necessary, and covering the better eye with a patch. This makes the eye with poor vision work harder, strengthen, and improve. The level of vision and the age of your child will determine how long patching is needed.
Placing a patch over the good eye is the most common form of treatment. The patch can be an adhesive patch that is applied to the skin or a material patch that is fitted over one side of your child’s glasses. The patch is usually worn for two hours per day in mild cases, and up to eight hours per day when the vision is very poor.
In mild cases of amblyopia, a medicated drop can be placed in the good eye to enlarge the pupil and make the vision blurry. Once again, this will encourage the eye with poor vision to work harder.
If your child has amblyopia because of strabismus, it is important to remember that the patch is being used to improve your child’s vision, but will not straighten their eye.
Tips for successful treatment
Treating amblyopia can often be difficult, particularly in the beginning. The following strategies may help you apply the treatment that has been prescribed for your child.
- Display a positive attitude. Try not to become discouraged if your child resists treatment as this is extremely common in the early stages.
- If your child is old enough, explain why the treatment is being done and although things will look blurry to begin with, they will improve over time. Also explain to family members, teachers and carers why the treatment is being undertaken and ask for their co-operation and assistance where possible.
- Associate the treatment with good feelings for your child using praise or rewards when patching is done successfully. This can include doing activities such as computer games, reading, board games, DVDs, etc. while the patch is being worn. Reward charts, stickers and stamps can also be used to encourage your child to wear their patch.
- Use a diary to record and monitor your child’s treatment. This can also be used to provide accurate updates for the eye specialist.
There is no magic formula that works for every child when it comes to wearing patches, so please experiment with different ideas if one approach fails. Sometimes success can take a while so persistence, patience and a positive attitude are important.
Outpatients – Ophthalmology (2d)
Level 2, Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t 07 3068 2630 | 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
In an emergency, always call 000.
If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.