Be careful, Amblyopia (lazy eye) can cause blindness if left untreatedSyamira Liana Nor Ashaha
Amblyopia is an eye disease or better known as lazy eyes, which can occur from birth.
It develops when there is an abnormal visual development.
However, the condition is treatable and can be cured with early detection and proper treatment to avoid severe complications by the time the child reaches adulthood.
Sunway Velocity Medical Centre consultant eye specialist and strabismus surgeon, Dr Fiona Chew Lee Min said it can be a challenge to diagnose amblyopia in children because they wouldn't know how to complain about the symptoms.
However, she said, nowadays children are diagnosed with amblyopia earlier due to an increase in eye examination programs in kindergartens and schools. There is also an increased awareness of children's eye health.
Based on her experience, Dr Fiona stresses that amblyopia can be cured with early treatment and reminds parents to take their child for an eye examination every year. "The younger a child is, the easier their brain adapts to any changes.
Children are advised to undergo an eye examination when they are six-months-old, three-years-old, six-years-old and beyond every two years to identify any eye problems," she said.
She added that if left completely untreated, amblyopia would become more severe and likely irreversible, which could lead to blindness.
When suffering from amblyopia, the alignment of the eyes will become unparalleled and the child may squint.
Fiona said amblyopia can be confirmed after a thorough eye examination by an ophthalmologist including a visual acuity test, refraction test, orthotic test or squint examination and eye extensive examination to determine the cause of amblyopia and treatment will depend on the cause of amblyopia itself.
"For example, children with eye refraction abnormalities (require them to wear glasses), cataracts, squint, eyelid drops and retinal problems need to be treated. After that,their visual development will improve.
If otherwise, the patient may need to undergo penalisation treatment or Dichoptic therapy. For penalisation treatment, the treatment will obscure the vision of the unproblematic eye and force the brain to use the lazy eye through blindfolds, eye drops or special eye lenses.
Dichoptic therapy involves certain exercises or digital games to improve eye-to-brain development," she said.
Dr Fiona added that parents can see signs of amblyopia through their children's behaviour such as difficulty seeing distant objects, abnormal eye movements, squint, abnormal head posture, frequent falls or collisions of objects, having three-dimensional vision problems such as when going down stairs, completing picture layouts, experiencing late growth problems and sports or homework-related problems.
Another consultant eye and eye nerve specialist at the same hospital, Dr Lakana Kumar Thavaratnam shared the same view and emphasised that amblyopia can be avoided from occurring in early childhood or in adolescence if it can be detected and treated early.
"Although amblyopia can be cured in adults, the treatment requires high motivation and commitment as it usually takes longer to treat children. Amblyopia in adults is called visual impairment and it can occur due to traumatic injuries and complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
"For that condition, an MRI of the brain and orbit should be performed and the cause of the visual impairment should be diagnosed and treated with vision therapy.
"The ability to see occurs during the earliest few years of life. Therefore, it is important to diagnose and treat amblyopia as early as possible," he said.
Dr Lakana said the amblyopia signs that parents need to keep an eye on are squint, which is when the eye is points in two different directions or not moving in proper coordination, eye refraction abnormalities such as short-sightedness, farsightedness or glare as well as ambiguity in the eye area which is often obvious.