August is Amblyopia Awareness Month
In March 2020, the Florida Senate passed a resolution recognizing August in Florida as Amblyopia Awareness Month. During the month of August, the Florida Society of Ophthamology (FSO) and For Eye Care Foundation, Inc. (FECF), the charitable arm of the FSO, will raise awareness about amblyopia, provide resources to parents and guardians about early vision screenings for their children, as well as bring attention to a vision issue than can be prevented if caught early enough.
Fewer than 20 percent of preschool children are currently screened for vision problems yet nearly 1 in every 20 children will be diagnosed with amblyopia. We know that the sooner children are identified with an issue that threatens their vision, including amblyopia, the sooner we can treat them and the better their chances. The resolution passed by the Florida Senate promotes statewide preschool vision screenings in Florida, with a goal statewide to test all children between the ages of three and five.
What is Amblyopia?
Amblyopia is often known as “lazy eye” and it can occur when vision in one eye doesn’t develop properly, making one eye weaker than the other. It is the most common cause of permanent vision loss in children but, if caught early enough, can be prevented and treated.
Amblyopia is caused by other vision issues, including, but not limited to, refractive error, misalignment of the eyes (strabismus), cataracts, corneal opacities, and tumors such as retinoblastoma.
According to the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus (AAPOS), the most common cause of Amblyopia is an uncorrected refractive error, which means that the shape of the eye doesn’t bend light in the correct way, which causes a blurred image, instead of a clear one.
How do I know if my child has a vision issue?
Young children are in a constant state of change and development, and their eyes are no different. As a child gets older, their vision strengthens and milestones like focusing on objects and developing depth perception are easy to see. What cannot be seen with the naked eye, are the causes of amblyopia. Because young children may not be able to express they are having issues with their vision, the best way help your child is to ensure that they are getting early, and regular vision screenings.
Vision screenings can be done by your child’s pediatrician or ophthalmologist and are recommended to start at 12-months and repeated very few years. In Florida, FSO recommends that every child between the ages of 3 and 5 be screened. A vision screening can often consist of covering a child’s eye to see how well they follow an object or how they react to an eye being covered, while older children can be checked using a handheld machine that uses light.
A comprehensive list of recommendations for when to screen children can be found here: www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/children-eye-screening
How can amblyopia be treated?
If your child has amblyopia and its caught early enough, it can be treated by strengthening the weaker eye. Depending on the age of the child and the severity of the case, amblyopia may be treated by using a patch on the weaker eye, using eye drops that blur the vision in the stronger eye and encourage the weaker eye to focus, using corrective gear or having surgery to remove the surrounding causes of amblyopia.
It is important to note that the best course of action should be determined by your child’s pediatrician or ophthalmologist, so that an age appropriate solution can be found.
For Eye Care Foundation:
The For Eye Care Foundation, Inc. (FECF) is the charitable arm of the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, an organization of ophthalmologists devoted delivering the highest standard of eye care throughout the state of Florida. The FECF collaborates regularly with organizations like the Lions Club, the Caridad Center, Vision is Priceless, Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches, etc. to bring awareness to eye disease and offer free vision screenings to those in need here in Florida. For more information on the FECF or to check when the next screening is, please visit: www.mdeye.org/foreyecare.
Learn more about one family’s journey toward saving their child’s vision at www.MDEye.org/ErinsStory.