Amblyopia in Children

Health Corner

Amblyopia in Children

Dr Umm Saarib Attariyyah

Visual Impairment in Children

Visual impairment in children is known as amblyopia and commonly called “lazy eye.” It happens because one or both eyes are unable to build a strong link to the brain. It usually only affects one eye and means that the child can see less clearly out of the affected eye and relies more on the “good” eye, causing the affected eye to further deteriorate and decline.


There can be many reasons for visual impairment. Here are a possible ten causes:

1.   Strabismus: abnormal alignment of the eyes where the 2 images are not the same (such as a squint).

2.   Blurred vision of the eye, i.e., cataract.

3.   Ptosis [drooping of the upper eyelid due to paralysis or disease, or as a congenital condition].

4.   Premature birth.

5.   Inheriting visual impairment or strabismus.

6.   Astigmatism: a reduced amount of light enters the eye, resulting in a blurred and imperfect image.

7.   Any ailment that affects the eyes.

8.   Refractive error of the eyes.

High-risk Age:

Children under the age of nine are at high risk. The younger the child, the greater the risk. At this age, the vision of the child is only just developing. Therefore, the sooner the diagnosis of amblyopia in childhood, the higher the chances of recovery. It becomes problematic when no visible or outward issue presents itself, and the eyes appear to be in good condition and well-aligned. This is because we do not think the child can develop a weakness of the eyes and hence, do not refer to a doctor for medical guidance.

Treatment of Amblyopia

In most cases, it is possible to treat a lazy eye. Each case will be unique, and each child will need treatment to suit their particular needs. So, you should consult a specialist who can prescribe the best treatment after considering the age of the child and the cause of the lazy eye. There are two ways it can be treated:

1. Glasses:

You may need glasses to improve your eyesight. Glasses correct the focus of both eyes and help them work together. Thus, if a doctor prescribes glasses for a child, it is imperative that he always wears them whilst awake.

2. Patching:

This is the treatment with which the chances of improvement are high, especially if the treatment begin at an early age. This is done using an eye patch to cover the stronger eye so that the affected eye is used more, enabling its vision to strengthen. An eye patch is like a blindfold that is placed over the child’s good eye. How long it stays on depends on the child’s age. If the child is four years old, then four hours. If the child is five, then it should be kept on for five hours a day. The higher the age of the child, the longer he should wear it. During patching, the child should be made to do tasks involving his eyes like reading and writing.

The child should be taken to a doctor from time to time while he is being treated. The doctor will assess his condition and state how long he needs this treatment for. This is because, in the case his vision improves, the duration of patching is reduced and gradually comes to an end. It is also important for the child to wear glasses during patching, so the eye and brain focus on one image.        




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