Nearly 1-5% of children in the UK suffer from the condition Amblyopia, more commonly known as "lazy eye" syndrome*. A lazy eye is caused by an interruption of normal visual development during a critical period in childhood, resulting in poor vision of the eye.
During the first four months of a child's life the visual pathways develop as the eye matures and receives images which are then sent to the brain. For correct development of vision the brain needs to receive equally clear and focused images from both eyes at the same time. However, if anything interferes with this development, it can result in Amblyopia and reduced vision. Amblyopia is a condition only children develop and needs to be treated in the early years of childhood in order to be corrected. As a lack of early treatment might later result in blindness or loss of depth perception.
It is not always obvious that a child suffers from Amblyopia; therefore it is important that the child is examined by a trained eye professional. National eye-test programmes vary from region to region and are usually performed at school entry, at the ages 4 or 5. Where there is no local vision screening available the child can still have an eye test free of charge on the NHS.
Amblyopia can be treated by patching (covering) the good eye - also called occlusion therapy. The aim of this treatment is to encourage the weaker or lazy eye to start working and stimulate vision hence helping the part of the brain that manages sight to further develop. The patching can last for a few hours a day and the treatment can last from a few months to several years, depending on the severity of the condition and the concordance of the child. It is therefore very important that prescribed treatment is followed and that the child is encouraged to wear the patch.