Skip to main content
Ancaster-Family-Eyecare-37-childpage-slide
Home »

Author: Site Default

Are You Missing Your Child’s Hidden Vision Problem?

Cute smiling boy with glasses 1280x853

Your toddler may show every sign of good eyesight including the ability to see objects in the distance, however that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she doesn’t have a vision problem.

Amblyopia is one common eye condition that is often hidden behind the appearance of good eyesight.

Also known as “lazy eye” it usually occurs when the brain begins to ignore the signals sent by one eye, often because that eye is weaker and doesn’t focus properly. Sometimes it can occur in both eyes, in which case it’s called bilateral amblyopia. This eye condition is especially common in preemies, and tends to run in families as well, so it’s important to provide your eye doctor with a complete medical and family history.

There are several factors that can cause amblyopia to develop. These include:

  • astigmatism,
  • high nearsightedness or farsightedness,
  • uneven eye development as an infant,
  • congenital cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye),
  • strabismus (where the eyes are misaligned or “cross-eyed”)

However in many cases of amblyopia there may be no obvious visible structural differences in the eye. In addition to the fact that the eyes may look normal, vision often appears fine as the brain is able to compensate for the weaker eye by favoring the stronger one. Because of this, many children live with their eye condition for years before it is diagnosed. Unfortunately, as a person ages, the brain loses some of its plasticity (how easy it is to train the brain to develop new skills), making it much harder – if not impossible – to treat amblyopia in older children and adults. That’s why it’s so important for infants and young children to have a thorough eye exam.

Are There Any Signs of Amblyopia?

If you notice your child appears cross-eyed, that would be an indication that it’s time for a comprehensive eye exam to screen for strabismus and amblyopia development.

Preschoolers with amblyopia sometimes show signs of unusual posture when playing, such as head tilting, clumsiness or viewing things abnormally close.

However, often there are no signs or symptoms. The child typically does not complain, as he or she does not know what normal vision should look like. Sometimes the condition is picked up once children begin reading if have difficulty focusing on the close text. The school nurse may suggest an eye exam to confirm or rule out amblyopia following a standard vision test on each eye, though it might be possible to pass a vision screening test and still have amblyopia. Only an eye doctor can make a definitive diagnosis of the eye condition.

So How Do You Know If or When To Book a Pediatric Eye Exam?

Comprehensive eye and vision exams should be performed on children at an early age. That way, hidden eye conditions would be diagnosed while they’re still more easily treatable. An eye exam is recommended at 6 months of age and then again at 3 years old and before entering first grade. The eye doctor may need to use eye drops to dilate the pupils to confirm a child’s true refractive error and diagnose an eye condition such as amblyopia.

Treatment for Amblyopia

Glasses alone will not completely correct vision with amblyopia in most cases, because the brain has learned to process images from the weak eye or eyes as blurred images, and ignore them. There are several non-surgical treatment options for amblyopia. While your child may never achieve 20/20 vision as an outcome of the treatment and may need some prescription glasses or contact lenses, there are options that can significantly improve visual acuity.

Patch or Drops

In order to improve vision, one needs to retrain the brain to receive a clear image from the weak eye or eyes. In the case of unilateral amblyopia (one eye is weaker than the other), this usually involves treating the normal eye with a patch or drops to force the brain to depend on the weak eye. This re-establishes the eye-brain connection with the weaker one and strengthens vision in that eye. If a child has bilateral amblyopia, treatment involves a regimen of constantly wearing glasses and/or contact lenses with continual observation over time.

Your eye doctor will prescribe the number of waking hours that patching is needed based on the visual acuity in your child’s weak eye; however, the periods of time that you chose to enforce wearing the patch may be flexible. During patching the child typically does a fun activity requiring hand eye coordination to stimulate visual development (such as a favorite video game, puzzle, maze etc) as passive activity is not as effective.

The earlier treatment starts, the better the chances are of stopping or reversing the negative patterns formed in the brain that harm vision. Amblyopia treatment with patches or drops may be minimally effective in improving vision as late as the early teen years (up to age 14) but better results are seen in younger patients.

Vision Therapy

Many optometrists recommend vision therapy to train the eyes using exercises that strengthen the eye-brain connection. While success rates tend to be better in children, optometrists have also seen improvements using this occupational therapy type program to treat amblyopia in adults.

The key to improvement through any non-surgical treatment for amblyopia is compliance. Vision therapy exercises must be practiced on a regular basis. Children that are using glasses or contact lenses for treatment, must wear them consistently. Your eye doctor will recommend the schedule of the patching, drops, or vision therapy eye exercise and the best course of treatment.

Amblyopia: Take-home Message

Even if your child is not showing any signs of vision problems, and especially if they are, it is important to have an eye examination with an eye doctor as soon as possible, and on a regular basis. While the eyes are still young and developing, diagnosis and treatment of eye conditions such as amblyopia are greatly improved.

Innovations in Color Blindness

clipart 048

There have been a lot of videos going viral lately of color blind people “seeing color” for the first time using specialized glasses. The emotional reactions of amazement, shock and joy even lead some to break down into tears. The glasses provide these individuals a way to view the world in vibrant, living color, as everyone else around them is able to.

One in every 12 men and one in every 200 women have some degree of color blindness or color vision deficiency (CVD). The condition is not actual blindness, but an inability or a decreased ability to see color and perceive differences in color. CVD can be a partial or total deficiency, although total color blindness is not as common. There are two main types of color blindness:

  • red-green – which is most often inherited from the mother’s side on the x chromosome, and

  • blue-yellow – which is much more rare and usually occurs from damage to the nerve. CVD can sometimes be acquired through disease, brain injury or certain drugs or chemical reactions

The World of the Color Blind

Contrary to common misconceptions, a person who is color blind does not see only grey. He still usually sees color to some extent, but often the colors appear dull or washed out and can be easily confused with other colors. People often have trouble identifying or naming certain colors or distinguishing colors, for example, red and green, as well as orange, yellow and brown may appear similar, particular in low light situations. In fact, while people with normal color vision typically see about one million unique shades of color, individuals with color deficiency are only able to perceive 5-10% of that.

People with color deficiency often do not know they are color blind until they are tested. They assume everyone else perceives colors the same way. Often individuals are tested when they are seeking out certain career paths in which it is essential to distinguish colors such as pilots, electricians or police officers among others.

Innovations in Color Vision

Color blindness can impair certain aspects of daily life and limit certain activities or job options and therefore there are a number of companies out there working on technology to overcome these difficulties. While there is no cure for CVD, there are aids available that can sometimes assist with increased color perception.

Eyeglasses/Sunglasses

There are a couple of brands of color enhancing glasses available that help some individuals with red-green colorblindness.

Both EnChroma and o2Amp Oxy-Iso Color Correction Glasses work for about 80% of people with red-green colorblindness – which means that not everyone will have the same experience as those that appear in the videos. The lenses enhance color perception by filtering out the light into different spectral components. EnChroma has two versions – indoor, designed for looking at computer screens and outdoor, sunglasses.

Another solution is a custom designed ColorCorrection System in which contact lenses and glasses are customized for the individual and are available with or without a prescription. These lenses work by changing the wavelength of the colors as they enter the eye to enhance color discrimination and perception.

Apps for CVD

There are a growing number of apps available for smartphones and tablets that serve as color vision aids for those with CVD. One example is the Colorblind Avenger which is a color identification program will allows the person to use their mobile device as a visual aid. The user takes a photo or selects an existing photo and when he touches an area on the image the app displays the color of the selected area.

Huevue is another app of colorblind tools that help people with CVD identify, match and coordinate colors. There are many other apps available out there to help aid those with CVD and educate others about living with the condition.

There are even video games and software design tools that are now created with colorblind modes to allow use by people with CVD. While none of these tools and aids are able to restore color vision permanently, they do allow those with the condition to live a more vibrant life.