Amblyopia (better known as lazy eye) is a condition triggered by uneven vision. Issues with a wandering or lazy eye normally occur in children at a young age, where one eye is able to focus well and the other has trouble processing an image. An example would be if a patient’s right eye had a misshapen cornea, known as severe astigmatism. This condition would cause the patient to be rather far-sighted. If this same young patient’s other eye was able to focus clearly, Amblyopia is most likely to occur.
When we are children, many vision issues experienced are corrected for us by our remarkable brain. Our minds will process a blurry image from our weak eye and rely on the vision produced by the good eye, cancelling out the blurry image. After a time, the brain becomes trained to ignore all of the signals coming from the weaker eye. Through this process, the eye that is seeing poorly will actually begin to deteriorate. Since the head has forgotten about the weaker eye, it begins to wander. Our brain simply forgets to hold it in place.
Amblyopia can also be caused by another eye condition which is known as strabismus. With strabismus, an ocular misalignment ensues. The condition will cause one eye to turn inward or outward, and consequently, the patient will experience double vision. Again, when the brain perceives the confusing image, it will choose to ignore the faulty signal and instead correct the patient’s vision by relying on the signal being sent from the stronger eye.
Lazy eye cannot be corrected wearing glasses. However, there are some recommended exercises one can try to recover from Amblyopia. The following eye exercises develop and support routine vision and can improve depth perception of the eye. Consult a doctor prior to using eye exercises to improve lazy eye.
Exercises for the Treatment of Amblyopia
- Focusing Skills: Exercises that are based on eye focus and involve a swift shifting between the perceptions of near and far away images can be helpful, especially for children in school who have trouble seeing the blackboard. To try these exercises at home, you might tape a normal calendar on one wall. On an opposite wall, hang a poster of larger numbers or words to read. Stand in the middle and shift your focus to alternate between reading objects, large print and small print.
- Tracking: Remember watching Pac Man glide through mazes and dodge ghosts all over arcade game screens? Tracking exercises for the eye can improve both peripheral vision and central vision. Use video games to help eye tracking, or simply watch your finger as you move it about in front of you.
- Eye Patch: Wearing an eye patch on the stronger eye will force the brain to process vision in a different way. In fact, the brain will be forced to strengthen the connection that has been deteriorating in the weaker eye. Your doctor will assign the length of time he or she feels the patch should be worn.
- Eye Rolling: The rolling of the eyes can help strengthen the muscles that control eye movement. To enact this exercise, sit down on the floor with your legs crossed. Without moving your head, look up at the ceiling for five seconds. Next, down at the floor for a 5 second count; then repeat this activity by looking left and right. At the end, look down at your own nose, and then squeeze your eyes shut tight and rest for a few seconds. Very slowly, open your eyes and begin to use your eye muscles again.
Will Eye Muscle Surgery Help?
While using surgical means to tighten up the muscles that rest underneath the eyeball will help to hold a wandering eye straight, it will not have any effect in improving a patient's vision; strabismus surgery (also known as eye muscle surgery) is not brain surgery. It is for this reason that patients who have eye surgery to correct lazy eye often experience their eye deviating back to wandering again, especially when tired. If you do undergo surgery, anticipate recommendations by your eye surgeon for repeat surgeries down the road.
That being said, there are numerous scientific studies reporting success rates that hover anywhere between 30 to 80% after receiving eye muscle surgery. The statistics are so widely varied because many of the studies reported only on cosmetic, and not binocular, successes; but post-surgery, it is possible that the patient’s eyes may remain straight and better aligned.
Back in the 1960’s and through the 1970’s, surgeons felt that muscle surgery should take place as soon as possible to correct amblyopia in children. However, a recent study by Gunter K. von Noorden concluded that of 408 patients who had the surgery at a young age, there was no link between age and the surgery’s success rate.
If you or your child is considering undergoing strabismus surgery, talk to your surgeon about goals and expected outcomes. Discuss the advantages of receiving a cosmetic cure, how it might affect your binocular cure, and what eye exercises might be used to retrain your brain.
For similar pieces on eye health, read our articles about what is macular degeneration and what is glaucoma.