There is no way to prevent amblyopia or the condition that causes it, but early diagnosis and treatment is often successful in reversing them. Part of restoring normal vision is correcting the predisposing cause of the amblyopia. To correct a misaligned eye, the physician will choose from a menu of options, which includes glasses, special lenses called prisms, eye drops or surgery. If an unequal refractive error is to blame, the amblyopia may be corrected with glasses or a contact lens, which makes the image on the retina appear clear. For eyes blocked by cloudy tissue, treatment will depend on which part of the eye has become cloudy. If a cataract covers the lens, surgery is typically needed. If the cornea is cloudy, treatment may involve observation over time. The physician will treat more rare conditions, such as tumors, glaucoma or lid disorders, with drops, surgery or observation, as appropriate.
Treating amblyopia — the fact that the eyes are not working together for normal vision and depth perception — is another part of restoring normal vision.
Physicians treat amblyopia by blocking the vision of the better-seeing eye in order to strengthen and improve the weaker amblyopic eye. This may be accomplished with an eye patch, which sticks like an adhesive bandage to the skin around the healthy eye. The healthy eye could also be covered using an occluder lens, which is a black contact lens that prevents light from entering the eye. Another option is using eye drops to enlarge the pupil of the better-seeing eye to blur its visual image. These treatments may occur before, during or after treatment for the condition causing the amblyopia.
Occluder contact lenses may be a better treatment than an eye patch if your child’s skin is sensitive, he or she is socially conscious about the patch, or he or she keeps removing the patch. The parent typically places the occluder contact lens in the child’s eye. After lens placement, check the child frequently to make sure the lens remains properly placed. After lens removal, check the lens for tears or breaks. Discourage the child from rubbing his or her eyes. For younger children, it may help to give them something that will keep their hands busy, such as blocks or other toys.
Do not insert a lens into your child’s eye if there are any abnormalities in the lens or if the eye is obviously red or sore. Occasionally, doctors treat amblyopia by using special drops to blur, or penalize, the vision in the better-seeing eye.
A child who has been successfully treated for amblyopia is not out of the woods until approximately age 9. Frequent vision checks may be necessary to adjust treatment and prevent a relapse.