The term “lazy eye” is a loosely used medical term that intones an older view of what is the most common cause of visual impairment in U.S. children, approximately five percent have it. The actual medical term is Amblyopia. It’s not an eye problem, it’s a problem where the brain ignores visual images from one eye due to a variety of vision disorders that cause double or blurred vision. The eye is not “lazy”, the brain is simply eliminating conflicting visual information by ignoring one of the images.
To look through a pair of amblyopic eyes is challenging. Things are unclear. Shadows are hazy. Highlights and details are gone and colors are less vivid. One amblyopic patient describes looking at the world through her amblyopic eye is like holding her breath, or not scratching an itch, desperately wanting to open the stronger eye to let it take over.
Tracking while reading can be very difficult with an amblyopic eye, as lines of type become wavy and even develop motion, causing the reader to lose track of progress. It also makes things go pretty slow, struggling to pay attention and interpret each and every word as it dances and fades.
When letters appear in a crowd, such as a word-find puzzle, people with amblyopia have difficulty seeing individual letters as opposed to one big mass of marks. Letters in the middle of the puzzle blur and blend into each other. Identifying letters becomes as difficult as counting grains of rice spilled on the floor from a standing position. Hard to determine which grains you’ve already counted, right?
There is a good amblyopia simulation for those wanting to experience what an amblyopia sufferer might experience. In a normally-lit room, put a patch on one eye, or just cover it with your hand, for two to five minutes. Then, either have someone turn the lights out, or move to a darkened room and uncover your eye. The covered eye has adjusted to the dark conditions, and will see pretty well, but the uncovered eye will not see very well, experiencing a disadvantage. That disadvantage of that uncovered eye moving from light into dark is similar to the disadvantage experienced with amblyopia. Try it and “see” for yourself.
Drs. Tod Davis and Amy Carlyle would like to remind readers that there is help for those with vision disorders like amblyopia. The staff at Virginia Vision Therapy Center can work with you to develop a program that will have you seeing the world at its very best.