What is a lazy eye and what is the strategy to combat it? Questions like these were answered by staff at the ophthalmology unit of the Hospital Costa del Sol during a campaign that began last week to raise awareness for parents and teachers about the importance of early detection and treatment of this condition, which doctors refer to as amblyopia.
This campaign, centred around optical health in children, is included as part of World Health Day, which was celebrated on 7 April, with the aim of getting across a message: the later you detect an illness and, therefore, you commence treatment, the lower the chance of recovery, which can result in reduced and poor vision in adulthood.
Doctors from several departments, along with nurses and auxiliaries from the ophthalmology department, were present at the information table in order to answer questions asked by members of the public. There they explained the characteristics of the disease, including details about the importance of an early diagnosis and how they would go about treating it. They also handed out information leaflets so that visitors could learn more about what was offered by their university.
In the Costa del Sol hospital three specialists carry out 5,000 consultations each year related to lazy eyes, with the help of other facilities such as the CARE unit in Mijas, which is also managed by the Costa del Sol health agency.
From the regional hospital the specialists explain that amblyopia is a visual deterioration which originates in the brain at a cortical level. Certain situations can lead to a problem with communication between the cerebral cortex and the eye during the first years of life due to a problem with development, which is commonly known as a lazy eye.
“The majority of cases of amblyopia occur because the patient has a very different degree of vision between both eyes. This is known as anisometrophia and is the cause of a lazy eye, which is formally known as amblyopia anisometropica. Lazy eye is also commonly caused by short-sightedness, and sometimes occurs as a result of both situations,” according to the doctors.
The most common form of lazy eye is found in only one eye, while the other eye is able to see perfectly well. That is the reason why many families think that there isn't a problem until it's detected in a medical eye examination. Specialists recommend that children should first visit an eye doctor between the ages of 4 and 5. They insist that the treatment of this disease is benefited by early diagnosis. If this is delayed, and the problem is not detected until the child is between 10 and 12 years old, their vision is likely to be worse than it would otherwise have been. In fact, it is unlikely that doctors will be able to do much for the child after the age of 12.
Strategies to tackle amblyopia, as outlined at the information table, are varied and the condition is very treatable. Tests should be carried out as early as possible, eye conditions should be treated and if there are signs of congential cataracts the eye should be operated on. Once this is done or at the same time, the lazy eye has to be stimulated at the same time as the sight in the other eye is reduced. How? With eye patches or drops to dilate the pupil which is struggling to function properly, techniques to try to stimulate the lazy eye, or trying to find ways to get it to work harder.