Michael Cole, OD, Child and Family EyeCare Center

It is easy to see when a child has a “boo-boo,” or if they aren’t feeling well. But how do you know if your child is seeing OK?

Most parents assume that because their child can see things far away that both eyes must be seeing fine. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. In fact, they may be using only one eye, while the other may not even be functioning properly. Parents often ask: “But wouldn’t my child know this?” A child may not even be aware of this because they think this is the way everyone sees. Since they are seeing out of one eye, they don’t even know to say anything.

That’s why it’s essential all children have a comprehensive vision exam before they begin school or early in the school year.

“Lazy eye,” or amblyopia, is easy to miss because there are very few symptoms. Lazy eye means the eye sees poorly, even with eyeglasses. Usually when parents see an eye that doesn’t seem to line up correctly they think it’s a “lazy eye.” In fact, that is a condition called an eye turn, or strabismus. It is important for parents to understand that while amblyopia and strabismus often occur together, you won’t always see an eye wander when your child has amblyopia.

Some early childhood symptoms that might indicate a problem include difficulty in catching or hitting a ball. Another symptom is if your child has difficulty seeing 3D movies. Being able to see 3D is not just a fun thing to do in the movies, it is important for everyday life. For example, we use three dimensional vision to ride a bicycle, walk down stairs, play sports and other activities that require eye-hand coordination. If your child always knocks over the milk at the dinner table, is clumsy or has sloppy handwriting, these could be signs of a vision problem.

Treatment for amblyopia is different depending on which doctor you see. Some will tell you nothing can be done after age 7 or 9 or that patching is the only treatment option. However, new research has confirmed what we have known for years; thanks to optometric vision therapy, it is never too late to treat a lazy eye. It is true that the earlier amblyopia and other vision conditions are diagnosed, the easier they are to treat and manage, but even adults well into their 40’s and older can often benefit from vision therapy.

As a parent, it is important to educate yourself on ALL treatment options because children do not outgrow eye turns or lazy eye. Surgery is not the only way to treat an eye turn and there are more effective treatment options for amblyopia other than patching (with or without drops).

Optometric vision therapy has helped many patients achieve normal vision in their amblyopic eye and has also resulted in eyes that are straight without the need for surgery. If you have been told your child is too old to be treated, there is still hope. Vision therapy gets excellent results no matter how old the patient is.

If you or your child has lazy eye or an eye turn, visit cachecfec.com/lazy-eye.html.

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One example of an activity designed to help treat amblyopia. Colored or polarized lenses are used to create a situation in which only one eye can see the necessary detail. Both eyes are being used, allowing the brain to learn to coordinate both eyes as a team (which patching can’t do). However, the weaker eye must be utilized to complete the activity, strengthening the signal sent to the brain and improving acuity.