We take inquiries from across the nation and even around the globe about adults getting amblyopia treatment. We always hear the same question: Have I gotten too old for lazy eye treatment? We always answer the same way every time: Individuals of any age can get treatment for their amblyopia.
Why does so much confusion revolve around this issue? Two reasons are actually in play here:
First is it possible for lazy eye, formally known as amblyopia, to be treated in the first place? Second, does treatment have an age cut-off? In order to provide answers to both questions, the condition of lazy eye or amblyopia must be defined.
Amblyopia is a situation in which one or even both eyes have a visual acuity that is less than would be expected when prescription lenses are used. The nickname of lazy eye comes from the thought that one eye with better vision would do the majority of the work of seeing things.
Lazy Eye: Two Eyes That Don't Get Along
Many folks actually confuse lazy eye with the condition of strabismus, which is any kind of eye turn or 'crossed eyes'. That's not something they should do, because the conditions are distinct from one another and can exist either with or even without each other.
The primary issue here is that one simply isn't seeing with clarity. Why is this? Given the high levels of astigmatism, constant eye turn, farsightedness, and nearsightedness, the human brain learns how to suppress or even turn off information from an impacted eye, and that suppression has a negative impact on developing clear vision.
Most of the time, the brain gets a pair of images from slightly varying angles which it combines into a three-dimensional image. This isn't what happens in the event of amblyopia.
What Does Happen When Binocular Vision Isn't Working Right?
In the case of amblyopia, the brain winds up suppressing one of the two images to the detriment of the binocular vision of a person. That individual could have numerous problems with their functional vision, like poor eye tracking or substandard depth perception.
Is It Possible To Treat Amblyopia At All?
Amblyopia is treatable given the plasticity of the brain. The brain's circuitry is something that can change in any decade of life. We apply vision therapy in retraining the patient's visual system. That includes not only their eyes, but even their brain and visual pathways.
The College of Optometrists in Vision Development has a website with a page covering the treatment of amblyopia, including the following:
-Contact lenses or eyeglasses, as the appropriate lenses can mean reducing stress so that an under-utilized eye might start working with increased efficiency
-Using eye drops, an eye patch, or special lenses to fog or block the favored eye, making the weaker eye work better or harder
-The restoration of single and clear vision, improvement of eye coordination, and visual equilibrium in both eyes through a program of specific vision therapy
Brain Plasticity Does Decrease And That Has Impact
It's well-established that vision therapy is more effective when it gets administered in the earlier stages of life. As a patient ages, the plasticity of their brain generally starts to decline.
The visual system of a person adapts so they're able to function, despite any present visual limitations. Dr. Susan Barry certain is one notable instance of this. A neurobiologist, she found ways to succeed in her own life, even in spite of her own vision issues.
Many adult patients have been able to adapt and then even persevere, despite having vision complications. That's not to say it's easy. For example, some students might make it to college with good grades but need twice as many study hours.
Adult Treatment For Amblyopia
The confusion over amblyopia treatment in adults might be relative to Harvard Medical School research which oversaw amblyopia treatment in cats. Researchers held the belief that cats couldn't recover their stereovision since they had lived past the age range of 2 to 8 years old, which is the critical period of their vision development. It's now known that the critical period ending does mean that amblyopia treatment is more difficult, yet not impossible.
So, things circle back to the central question: Are adults able to get amblyopia treatment? Certainly. The upside is that adults diagnosed with amblyopia can possibly get enhanced vision. However, no guarantees exist. Each patient and case is distinct, and all patients need thorough evaluation using a Functional Vision Test.
On the other hand, we strongly advise you to consult a developmental optometrist in order to see if treatment is even possible for your situation. Consult The Vision Therapy Center if you are a resident of Wisconsin.
To learn more about amblyopia treatment, please call us today at (919) 977-7480. Dr. Bassiri and the Fusion Eye Care team look forward to ensuring you get help with your amblyopia.