Amblyopia, or “lazy eye,” is defined as reduced vision in an eye that has not received adequate use during childhood. It often results from either a misalignment of the eyes, such as crossed eyes, or a difference in image quality between the two eyes. In both cases, one eye becomes stronger and the other becomes weaker. If the condition persists, the weaker eye may become useless.
Two to 3 percent of the population suffers from amblyopia, according to Prevent Blindness America (www.preventblindness.org). Early intervention is the key to successfully treating the condition, which affects an estimated 205,000 American children annually. Amblyopia can develop quickly during the first three years, and is best treated during infancy or early childhood.
A new testing method to predict amblyopia, called photoscreening, allows doctors to check a child’s vision by simply taking a photograph. The MTI PhotoScreener can be used for children as young as 6 months, according to the manufacturer, Medical Technology & Innovations Inc. of Lancaster, Pa. It detects problems not usually discovered in routine vision checks performed by pediatricians. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, photoscreening “can be particularly useful for screening infants, toddlers and children with developmental delays.”
Designed as a screening tool for use by pediatricians, the portable, handheld camera produces instant pictures that detect possible vision problems. Potential eye disorders show up as crescents on the photographs. The test is fast, simple and painless. If a problem is detected, the child is referred to an eye-care professional for additional testing and diagnosis.
See also: What Your Baby Sees: The Development of Vision
Kathy Sena is United Parenting Publications’ health columnist and the mother of a 6-year-old son.
From United Parenting Publications, August 2002.