Amblyopia is a disorder that can be very effectively treated early in one’s life, within the so-called critical period for vision development. Although it is commonly associated with children, it is important to understand that amblyopia can persist into adulthood if left untreated.
Amblyopia occurs when one eye develops better visual acuity than the other, leading the brain to rely more on the stronger eye and ignore the input from the weaker eye. This neglect leads to the weakening of the neural connections between the brain and the weaker eye, resulting in reduced visual acuity. If not treated early in life, the brain’s plasticity diminishes, making it more challenging to correct amblyopia in adulthood.
Challenges of Treating Adult Amblyopia
Treating adult amblyopia presents several challenges. First, the decreased plasticity of the brain makes it harder to reestablish the connections between the brain and the weaker eye. Additionally, adults may have developed compensatory mechanisms to cope with their reduced vision, which further hinders the success of traditional treatments.
Critical Period – Too Late for Adults?
Historically, the critical period for vision development was regarded as up to around 8 years of age. For people older than that, it was generally believed that vision can no longer be developed, or any residual amblyopia improved. As a result, many adults resigned themselves to living with compromised vision. However, advancements in vision therapy have challenged this notion, offering new hope for those affected by adult amblyopia.
Research on animal models of amblyopia, however, has disproved this belief and the researchers, as well as physicians, have since introduced a wide range of behavioral interventions, including several vision training approaches, that can improve vision even in amblyopic adults.
Adults have just as much need for this type of vision care as children, and indeed sometimes adults can achieve very good results because they are more motivated and know WHY they have to do vision therapy exercises.
When people have trouble using both eyes together or can’t focus for great lengths of time, they do not simply grow out of these problems. Children with visual problems often become adults with visual problems.
Benefits of Vision Therapy for Adults with Amblyopia
Improved Visual Acuity
Vision therapy can lead to significant improvements in visual acuity in the weaker eye, enhancing overall vision.
training the eyes to work together, vision therapy can improve binocular vision, which is essential for depth perception and visual coordination.
Enhanced Quality of Life
Improved vision can positively impact an individual’s daily life, boosting confidence and performance in various activities, such as driving, reading, and sports.
Reduced Dependence on Corrective Lenses
Some individuals may experience a reduced reliance on glasses or contact lenses after successful vision therapy.
Prevention of Further Vision Loss
Treating amblyopia in adulthood can help prevent or slow down the progression of vision loss over time.
Managing the Expectations of Adults
That said, the improvements in terms of visual acuity or binocular visual function that can be achieved with vision training in adults are usually modest, yet significant.
It is of course unreasonable to expect that older people will benefit as much as, say, 5-year-olds, as the brain of the former is nonetheless not as plastic as that of the latter, even if certain plasticity is arguably retained.
Perhaps vision training in adults can be more effective still for certain conditions other than amblyopia, such as after head trauma or vascular events. The truth is, though, that when it comes to brain and vision there are still many things to be discovered and many more studies are needed for us to be able to clearly say who will benefit from different vision training approaches and how.
Unfortunately, then, if you are an adult with amblyopia, we cannot tell you for sure whether you can expect improvements with vision training approaches such as AmblyoPlay. All we can say is that it is worth giving it a shot and hoping for the best.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s never too late. Amblyopia (lazy eye) is best treated before the age of 7 or 8. Early intervention is crucial for the most effective results. However, treatment can still be attempted in older children and adults, though the chances of full recovery diminish with age. However, improvements in terms of visual acuity or binocular vision function can be achieved with vision training in adults.
Correcting a lazy eye (amblyopia) in adults can be more challenging than in children, but is still possible. Some methods used to treat lazy eye in adults include vision therapy, surgery, and prism glasses.
Yes, it is possible to develop lazy eye (amblyopia) later in life, though it is less common than when it occurs during childhood. Factors that contribute to the development of lazy eyes later in life include strabismus, eye injury, cataracts, ptosis, or untreated refractive errors.