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Understanding Amblyopia: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Lazy Eye

Understanding Amblyopia: A Parent’s Guide to Childhood Lazy Eye

When your child was an infant, you widened your eyes, winked, and went cross eyed to make her squeal with delight. As your child develops, however, you notice that her eyes always seem slightly cross eyed, even when she isn’t imitating your antics.

Amblyopia, or lazy eye, occurs in an estimated three percent of children under the age of six. This complex condition can have permanent consequences for your child’s vision, but understanding amblyopia can help you ensure that he or she gets the necessary treatment.

What Is Amblyopia?

Amblyopia is a change in the nerve pathways from the retina to the brain. When this connection weakens, the eye may wander and receive fewer overall visual signals.

If left untreated, the brain may begin to disregard all visual signals sent from the weak eye. Amblyopia can result in blurred vision and lack of depth perception.

There are three main types of amblyopia. The type of amblyopia a child exhibits depends almost exclusively on the cause of the visual disruption.

1. Deprivation Amblyopia

Deprivation amblyopia is the most severe form of this condition and can result in permanent vision loss if left untreated. This form of amblyopia occurs when one eye is deprived of clear visual signals, usually due to another eye health problem such as a cataract.

2. Refractive Amblyopia

If you wear corrective lenses, you know that many people’s eyes have different individual prescriptions. While this divergence is often harmless, large differences between the vision acuity in your child’s eyes can cause refractive amblyopia. Most children with this type of amblyopia develop the condition due to farsightedness, but issues can also develop due to nearsightedness or astigmatism.

3. Strabismic Amblyopia

The most recognizable form of amblyopia occurs due to weakness in the muscles that position your child’s eyes. Strabismus, or turned eye, may make it difficult for your child’s eyes to work in tandem, leading to a cross-eyed appearance. Strabismus is a physical condition, unlike amblyopia, which is a nervous condition. However, when strabismus is left untreated, the brain may begin to ignore signals from the weaker eye, leading to amblyopia.

Keep in mind that while the term lazy eye is usually used in the singular, it is possible for children to develop amblyopia in both eyes.

What Are the Symptoms of Amblyopia?

While you may have an image that comes to mind when you hear the term “lazy eye,” not all cases of amblyopia look the same. In fact, some children do not exhibit eye misalignment at all.

Take your child to an optometrist for testing and diagnosis if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • An eye that turns inward or outward
  • Closing one eye when trying to get a better look at an object
  • Frequent head tilting
  • Frequent squinting
  • Poor depth perception, which may manifest as general clumsiness in younger children

You should also prioritize early childhood eye exams for your child if he or she is at particularly high risk for amblyopia. Risk factors include:

  • A family history of amblyopia
  • Cognitive or developmental disabilities
  • Premature birth or low birth weight

While children can successfully be treated for amblyopia until their teens, children who undergo treatment before they reach the age of two have the best overall results.

How Do Eye Doctors Treat Amblyopia?

In most cases, the goal of amblyopia treatment is to naturally strengthen the weaker eye to help your child’s eyes move in tandem more easily. The treatment itself will depend on the cause of your child’s amblyopia and the severity of his or her condition.

Common types of treatment include the following.

Corrective Eyewear

If your child’s amblyopia stems from a vision problem, your eye doctor may prescribe glasses to correct the vision issue. Corrective eyewear may solve some minor cases of refractive amblyopia, but glasses are usually used alongside another treatment method.

Patching

To strengthen the weaker eye, your child’s optometrist may use a medical patch to cover the dominant eye. Patching forces the weak eye to work harder, naturally strengthening its connection to the brain.

Eyedrops

If your child cannot wear a patch for whatever reason, your eye doctor may use atropine eyedrops instead. These drops reduce vision in the stronger eye to encourage better sight in the amblyopic eye.

If your child has strabismic or deprivation amblyopia that does not respond to other forms of treatment, your optometrist may recommend eye surgery. Surgery may be used to improve muscle function or to eliminate the condition causing your child’s deprivation amblyopia.

Has your child shown signs of strabismus or amblyopia? Schedule an appointment at the All About Eyes location nearest you as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment are essential to ensuring that your child has as good of eye health and as accurate of vision as possible throughout his or her life.

4 Reasons Why Regular Vision Checks Are Vital for Your Child’s Health and Wellbeing

4 Reasons Why Regular Vision Checks Are Vital for Your Child’s Health and Wellbeing

For most American parents, taking their child in for a yearly checkup with their doctor and dentist is considered a core part of their health care regime. A yearly vision check with an optometrist is also a vital appointment that should be attended, yet around 85% of preschoolers haven’t had an eye exam, and less than 22% have had proper vision screening before starting school.

Generally, infants have their eyes tested at birth, but as a child’s vision changes and develops rapidly over their first few years, it’s important for them to have regular vision checks. Here are four reasons why a visit to the eye doctor should become a yearly routine for you and your children.

1. Poor Vision Impacts a Child’s Education

Around 20% of American school children have issues with their vision. If left undiagnosed and untreated, this can have a disastrous impact on their educational outcomes. Their ability to read books and work on the blackboard, participate in sport and recreation activities, and socially interact can all be compromised by vision problems.

If unidentified and untreated, a child with vision issues can find themselves falling behind their classmates in their learning. They may even become labelled as a problem student or be seen to have learning problems. These factors can lead to social issues, behavioral problems, and a general dislike for school and learning.

Unfortunately, many children, especially younger ones, can’t identify vision issues as the cause of their misfortune at school. No matter how poor their vision may be, it is normal to them. Therefore, a yearly check by an optometrist is vital. Identifying and correcting vision problems early can prevent the negative impact they have on your child’s education.

2. Early Disease Detection Provides Better Outcomes

Unfortunately, children, as well as adults, are susceptible to many diseases of the eye. Many are treated simply and effectively with medicine, but others may need more extensive and invasive treatment. Some diseases may be very apparent to parents and caregivers, but others may only be detected during regular eye checks by your optometrist.

Unfortunately, many eye problems and diseases can worsen over time if untreated. This can make them more difficult, costly, and invasive to treat and in some cases, may cause irreversible damage to your child’s vision. Early detection and intervention will improve the health outcome for your child.

While fortunately rare, there are children’s cancers that can also be detected during eye exams with your optometrist. Retinoblastoma is cancer of the eye and can be difficult to detect early without regular vision checks.

Brain tumors and neuroblastoma are two of the most common forms of cancer in children. Both can cause problems with vision and changes in the eyes which can be picked up by professionals. As with all cancers, these types of childhood cancers are more treatable and less life-threatening if detected in their early stages.

3. Easier Acceptance of Vision Aids

For an older child, finding out that they need glasses can seem like a horrific and socially disastrous occasion. They may hate the idea of wearing glasses because of the way they look, or they may find it very hard to adjust to the physical sensation of wearing glasses on their face. Either way, you may have a battle on your hands trying to get them to put them on and keep them on.

The earlier you can introduce your child to the idea of wearing glasses, the better. Younger children are generally more accepting of new things, and will more readily adjust to their new accessories. By the time they have reached school age, they should view their glasses as essential and as normal as wearing a hat, coat, or shoes.

4. Early Checks Can Encourage an Appreciation for Good Eye Health

Caring for your eyes and vision is as vital for your child’s long-term health and wellbeing as other aspects of holistic health, such as dentistry, nutrition, and exercise. By showing your child that their eyes are important with regular vision checks, you’re providing them with the foundations of a lifelong respect for these very important organs.

Their eye doctor can also provide them with age appropriate advice to help keep their eyes safe from injury and disease. Often children take more notice of this sort of safety advice when it’s delivered by a health professional instead of their parents.

 

If your children haven’t had regular checkups with an optometrist, then it’s important to make an appointment as soon as possible. The friendly team at your local All About Eyes store will provide your children with a professional and thorough vision test that will set your mind at ease.

You can find the nearest store to your home on our website, and you can even book your appointments online. If you have any further questions about booking an appointment or what to expect on the day of, then the staff at your local store will happily answer them over the phone.

Bright Eyed: What You Need to Know About Color Contact Lenses

Bright Eyed: What You Need to Know About Color Contact Lenses

Eye color can play a powerful role in how a person is perceived. Many artists have found inspiration in eye colors across the spectrum, from Van Morrison’s classic song “Brown-Eyed Girl” to the mesmerizing Steve McCurry portrait entitled “Afghan Girl.”

But many people would love to alter the color of their eyes, whether to change their overall appearance or to complete a costume. Individuals can achieve rich browns and striking greens alike using color contacts.

However, these contacts are often less regulated than their prescription counterparts. In some cases, poor manufacturing or misuse can even make color contacts a hazard for your eyes.

It’s important to understand the best buying, care, and usage practices to ensure that changing the color of your eyes doesn’t endanger your optical health.

Buying Color Contact Lenses

While color contact lenses can add to your appearance, you should think of them in medical rather than cosmetic terms. Because contact lenses are worn on the eye, prioritize finding the right lenses just like you would when getting new prescription glasses. Don’t shop like you would when looking for a new piece of jewelry.

Plan to invest in your new lenses. Many cheap color lenses are not shaped correctly for safe wear or are not made of materials intended for the eyes. If the contacts you choose are not the right shape, they could irritate or even scratch your eye, potentially leading to infection and other complications. To ensure your eye health and safety, you will need to choose higher-quality lenses, which are inherently more expensive than other lenses.

Start your search for color contact lenses where you begin looking for any corrective eyewear: at your optometrist’s office. It’s particularly important to get the advice of a professional eye doctor if you have never worn contact lenses before.

Your eye doctor will account for your eye shape, health and history, and prescription when making recommendations of color contact brands and types. In some cases, you may even be able to order your new color contact lenses in your eye doctor’s office through a partner brand.

If you need vision correction, you may be able to find contacts with your prescription. Keep in mind, however, that some novelty styles can affect the scope your vision, not just its acuity. For example, full eye contacts that give the appearance of cataracts or “black eyes” can completely block your vision. These lenses may be appropriate for photoshoots and other static activities, but they cannot be worn for parties, conventions, and other costume events.

Caring for Color Contact Lenses

Once you choose the right contacts for your intended purpose, it’s important to take care of the lenses just like you would with a prescription set. Follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid exposing your lenses to contaminants. To keep your lenses clean and intact, always use contact solution for cleaning rather than water. Do not use saliva to rinse your contacts.
  • Clean the lenses after each use. When you take your lenses out, clean them using contact solution. Use a gentle rubbing motion to remove any buildup on the surface of the contact. Allow each lens to air dry completely before putting it in its case.
  • Dispose of the contacts as recommended. When you get your color contacts, check how long you should expect them to last. While many contacts can last for longer periods of time, none are permanent. You should always stop using a set of contacts and dispose of them once they reach the end of their life expectancy.
  • Store your contacts in a clean case. Choose a hard case for each pair of contact lenses you currently use. To avoid contamination, replace the case about every three months.

In addition to these guidelines, follow any instructions provided by your eye doctor or by the contact lens manufacturer.

Wearing Color Contact Lenses

Cultivating good habits for contact lens wear can reduce your risk of eye irritation and infection. Take the following measures:

  • Avoid exposing your lenses to water as outlined in our blog, “What You Need to Know About Wearing Contacts in Water
  • Avoid sleeping in color contact lenses
  • Carry contact solution, a travel case, and soothing eye drops with you in case you need to remove your contacts
  • Never share your lenses with another person
  • Take your contacts out and give your eyes a break if your eyes begin to feel tired or itchy
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before inserting or removing the contacts

Additionally, if you experience prolonged irritation after wearing your color contacts, stop wearing them and schedule an appointment with an optometrist to determine the cause of the problem.

 

If you’re considering color contacts, wait to make your purchase until you can consult with one of the qualified eye doctors at All About Eyes to ensure you’re making an informed decision. Schedule an appointment at our office nearest you today.

Cold Weather Woes: 6 Ways Winter Can Affect Your Eyes

Cold Weather Woes: 6 Ways Winter Can Affect Your Eyes

Winter brings some of the most popular holidays of the year, but the season also comes with extreme temperatures and precipitation. Whether you love the season for its festivities or hate the season for its weather, you have to take steps to protect yourself from the potential hazards of winter conditions.

While you probably remember to drive more carefully and bundle up before going outside, you may overlook the seasonal threats to your eye health. These hazards often seem less obvious than an icy road or freezing morning, but eye health issues can be just as dangerous.

1. Dryness

Cold outdoor air and heated indoor air often have less moisture in them than other environments. In the winter, you may experience dry skin, chapped lips, and dry eyes due to this low humidity. Cold winter winds may also dry your eyes out. You can learn more about this condition in our blog “Irritated, Itchy Eyes: What You Need to Know About Dry Eye.”

To minimize the drying ability of winter air, keep yourself hydrated and increase your intake of omega-3s. You may also want to run a humidifier in your home to improve the quality of your indoor air.

2. Excess Tearing

While some people experience a lack of tears in the winter, others have the opposite problem. Excess tearing and runny eyes can occur due to cold air, biting winds, or seasonal allergies. Pay attention to when your eyes tear up to determine the cause.

If your eyes start to water when you step outside or when the wind blows your way, wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes. If you experience excess tearing while indoors, try an allergy medication and appropriate eye drops to reduce the effect of seasonal allergies. If you cannot determine the cause of your watery eyes or if over-the-counter treatments have no effect, especially if the wateriness alters your vision, see an optometrist.

3. Light Sensitivity

Winter skies can seem dark and gloomy, but snowfall and ice create many reflective surfaces that can dramatically increase the amount of light. If you have sensitive eyes, you may experience even more blinking, discomfort, and other symptoms in bright winter light.

Some individuals develop new light sensitivity during winter due to a condition known as “snow blindness,” which we’ll discuss in more detail in section five. Always protect your eyes when going outdoors for long periods of time, including when walking, shoveling snow, or performing other routine activities.

4. Redness

Harsh winter conditions can cause redness, tenderness, and inflammation in the eye area. You may have swollen eyelids or discoloration of your eye itself. You may also notice eyelid spasms or involuntary tics if your eyes become particularly irritated.

This redness could result from dry eye, seasonal allergies, or snow blindness. To reduce the discomfort of inflamed eyes, apply a cool compress like a damp washcloth and take an over-the-counter pain killer. If your symptoms persist, see an eye doctor to determine the cause of the irritation.

5. Sunburn

When you picture a sunburn, you likely imagine redness and blisters on the skin, but long periods of light exposure can damage your eyes too. Eye sunburn and snow blindness often occur simultaneously. If you notice an increase in your light sensitivity, your eyes may have sustained UV damage, especially if you also experience itchiness or pain.

You are most vulnerable to UV damage when participating in outdoor activities at high elevations. If you enjoy winter sports like skiing and sledding, always wear eye protection. If you experience the symptoms of eye sunburn, see your optometrist. Treatment can decrease your acute discomfort and decrease the risk of long-term complications, including vision loss and macular degeneration.

6. Vision Changes

While many winter eye health problems result from increased light or decreased moisture, you can also experience eye conditions caused by the cold temperature. Extremely low temperatures cause the blood vessels in and around the eyes to constrict, and this constriction can cause immediate vision changes, such as blurriness and double vision. These changes are most likely to occur when you stay outside for long periods of time in temperatures that are well below freezing.

If you notice vision changes while out in the cold, move to a warm area as soon as possible. If your normal vision doesn’t return after 30 minutes or so, seek medical attention. An optometrist may use medicated eye drops to help the blood vessels in your eye dilate back to their normal size.

If you experience any of the seasonal problems listed above, consult with an eye doctor. While some eye health issues will clear up as the temperatures rise, others may become more uncomfortable and potentially dangerous without medical attention.

Schedule an appointment at the All About Eyes location nearest you today to begin resolving all of your winter weather eye woes.

Vivid Technicolor: How Color Vision Works

Vivid Technicolor: How Color Vision Works

Color is an integral part of human life. We use paint colors to change the atmosphere of our homes, colored lights to control traffic, and even different colored clothes to display our professions.

While not everyone can see life in technicolor, as discussed in “Understanding Color Blindness“, many people make decisions and experience emotions based on color every day. So how does color vision work? And are there versions of color vision that differ dramatically from the average human experience?

Color Vision in Humans

All colors appear because of how light interacts with objects. When you see a distinctly colored object, the color you see results from said object absorbing all the other colors of light. For example, grass appears green because it absorbs all light that isn’t in the 577 to 492 range and the sky appears blue because it absorbs all light that isn’t in the 492 to 455 range.

Your eye processes colors in the retina, a membrane found at the back of the eyeball. The retina contains six to seven million tiny cells that translate the light that comes into your eyes into recognizable color information that’s then sent to your brain.

Cells that perform this function are known as photoreceptors. In the retina, most photoreceptors fall into a class of cell called cones. Cones can be three different lengths, short, medium, and long. These cones are referred to as s-cones, m-cones, and l-cones respectively. Each cone length detects different light wavelengths. S-cones react to blue wavelengths, m-cones respond to green wavelengths, and l-cones process red wavelengths.

The average human has significantly more l-cones than s- or m-cones. A little more than 60% of the cones in your retina are dedicated to red light wavelengths, while only 2% react to blue light wavelengths.

This cone configuration allows humans to see the entire rainbow of colors, but we can’t see wavelengths that are shorter than 390 or longer than 622. Ultraviolet light and X-rays are both shorter than 390, while radio waves and infrared are longer than 622. We can’t see these light wavelengths without the help of special equipment, but scientists suspect that some animals can.

Color Vision in the Animal Kingdom

The types of color vision that differ from the average human’s belong to the animal kingdom. Many animals see fewer colors than we do, but scientists believe that some animals can see even more of the spectrum due to the presence of more color cone varieties in their retinas.

Your pets and other animals experience the world in a drastically different color palette than yours. Most animal’s color vision either lack the color red or have the addition to see the ultraviolet spectrum.

No L-Cones

Without color cones that react to red light, some animals see a similar color palette to people with red-green colorblindness. This palette includes a range of grays, blues, and yellows and looks similar to light sepia.

Animals that don’t have l-cone photoreceptors include:

  • All cattle, including fighting bulls
  • Cats and dogs
  • Rodents, like rabbits, rats, mice, and hamsters

Many human activities performed with these animals involve a misconception that the animal sees color as well as we do. For example, fighting bulls charge at a matador’s cape because the fabric is moving, not because it’s red. Similarly, your cat may chase a red laser pointer dot because it resembles the movement of prey, not because it has an eye-catching color.

Four Cones

Most animals that have more types of color cones than humans have four types of color cones. The additional cone type is shorter than our s-cone, so scientists believe that this extra cone allows animals to see ultraviolet light.

Animals with four cones include insects, like honeybees and butterflies. Scientists believe that these insects evolved better color vision than humans in order to help them see pollen sources.

It’s also possible that there are even more variations on color vision in the animal kingdom. For example, the mantis shrimp’s eyes have 16 different types of color cones. These crustaceans can potentially see colors and color details that humans cannot even comprehend.

It’s important to remember that color vision does not necessarily affect visual acuity. For example, a cat may not be able to see red-colored object the way you do, but a feline may be able to spot movement at a greater distance than you can. And a bee might see ultraviolet patterns on flowers, but that doesn’t mean the insect has great eyesight overall.

You may be stuck with normal human eyesight, but if you think you may be colorblind or if your color vision changes, make an appointment at the All About Eyes location nearest you. Our eye doctors can perform tests to evaluate a color vision deficiency and determine whether your color blindness indicates any serious underlying problems.

Early Intervention: Signs Your Child Is Having Visions Problems

Early Intervention: Signs Your Child Is Having Visions Problems

At birth, a baby’s vision is very poor. As children develop, however, their eyes become able to see full colors, focus on far away objects, and perceive depth and space. Not all vision, however, develops perfectly. It can be hard to tell if your baby or toddler is starting to experience vision problems when they are unable to speak about their experiences.

You’ll be happy to know that serious vision problems in newborns are very uncommon. As your baby becomes more active and approaches toddlerhood, problems are more likely.

Symptoms in Infancy

Here’s what you should notice as your child’s vision develops and what you can do to if you see the following signs:

  • Poor response to visual stimuli. Babies are generally very excited to see new patterns, flashing lights, and other interesting sense-stimulating visuals. If your baby is past the newborn stage and is still not responding to flashing lights, it’s time to consult your eye doctor.
  • Abnormal eye movement. Your baby’s eyes should move in tandem. One eye should not drift back and forth while the other remains steady, nor should their eyes drift in opposite directions. However, you should know that babies can naturally look crossed-eyed when focusing on something close to the face.
  • Strange eye appearance in flash photographs. Red eyes are normal in some photos taken with flash. However, white eyes or other colored spots are not. If your baby consistently has strange eye coloration from the flash, see your doctor.
  • One eye remaining closed. Both lids should function together.
  • Persistent infection. Crusty excretions, redness that does not fade, and intense reactions to bright lights (such as crying in pain) are signs of infection.

As your baby grows, you should also look for specific behaviors that can indicate vision trouble. A baby with eye problems might rub their eyes when they aren’t tired, squint all the time, tilt their head when trying to look at a specific object, or refuse to follow a toy with their eyes.

Some vision trouble can be treated immediately, especially if it’s caused by infection. Other problems, like strabismus (involuntary eye movements) will require vision therapy.

Symptoms for Toddlers

As your baby begins to walk, vision trouble becomes easier to notice and diagnose. Also, by 12-months-old, your baby should have had their first eye exam, which allows any major problems to be caught by an optometrist.

Here are some of the symptoms you might notice if your toddler is starting to have difficulty seeing properly:

  • An unusual amount of accidents due to apparent clumsiness. Some children, especially those with astigmatism, have somewhat poorly developed motor hand-eye-foot coordination. Your toddler might trip and fall more often than their peers.
  • Gazing too closely at books or moving very close to the screen of a TV or tablet. Some children like to sit close just for fun, but if the behavior is consistent with all media, it’s worth looking into.
  • More eye rubbing. Rubbing your eyes is a sign of visual fatigue—it’s why people do it when they need to sleep or after they’ve been crying. But rubbing during the day for no apparent reason is a sign that your child’s eyes are tired from trying to see well when they cannot.
  • Complaints of eye pain, headaches, or itchiness. If your child says their head hurts on a consistent basis when they are not sick and are well-rested and hydrated, it’s a sign of poor vision.

Remember that toddlers can still develop more serious eye problems than simple near- or far-sightedness. If your child’s eye seem to be bulging or if one pupil is much large than the other, emergency medical treatment may be necessary.

Habits for Healthy Childhood Eyes

Parents are instrumental in catching eye problems in infancy and toddlerhood, but they are also integral in promoting good eye development. These suggestions will help you provide the stimulation necessary for your child to develop strong eyesight as they grow:

  • Play with your baby. Roll a ball sideways, forward, and backward to help them track the movement. Tracking movement helps strong eye muscle development.
  • Change your baby’s seat and position often. Don’t always sit your child in the same corner of the room. Move the seat or swing to different locations and, if possible, different heights to allow for better cognitive visual processing.
  • Move your baby’s hand during play. Make movements that will be important later. For example, you might move your baby’s arm in a throwing motion. The movement and early tracking will help with the development of a hand-eye coordination.
  • Read books with your child and encourage concentrated play with blocks, stickers, coloring, or toy cars. The concentration on specific objects during play will increase your child’s visual endurance.

For more information on childhood vision problems and development, contact the team at All About Eyes.