People often believe that strabismus somewhat equals amblyopia and vice versa, and whilst these two often coexist they should not be inherently considered as coinciding entities. We shall explain why in today’s blog.
Amblyopia, as you are probably aware, is a disorder that is characterized by decreased visual function (visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, etc.) without any detectable pathological abnormalities of the eye. It is a disorder that practically never arises by itself – it is always triggered by another underlying condition. Even though visual deprivation such as congenital cataracts, for instance, does trigger severe amblyopia, it is most commonly caused by unrecognized refractive errors such as anisometropia, followed closely by – yes you have guessed it – strabismus.
The treatment of amblyopia consists of (A) treatment of the cause and (B) treatment of amblyopia itself. Treatment of the cause very much depends on the actual cause and is sometimes enough to halt the amblyopia progression. Treatment of amblyopia itself, on the other hand, is aimed specifically to restore the visual function and consists of patching, penalization and vision training.
Strabismus or squint is a condition characterized by eye misalignment. It can be classified as congenital, acquired, or secondary to other ocular pathology. In children, it may or may not cause amblyopia. Luckily, eye misalignment is usually very easy to spot and kids with strabismus are often referred to an ophthalmologist early. Therefore, the treatment of strabismus and possible overlying amblyopia is usually initiated early, which maximizes treatment success. Although certain forms of strabismus can cure on their own, sometimes a special treatment with a combination of specialized prisms glasses, medication, or surgery is needed in order to alleviate the eye misalignment.
In conclusion then, whilst amblyopia and strabismus can coincide, not every amblyopia is caused by strabismus and not every strabismus will lead to the development of amblyopia. If, however, amblyopia is caused by underlying strabismus, a combination of a treatment aimed specifically at amblyopia and treatment designed specifically for strabismus will provide the best results. Which comes first will usually be decided on an individual basis. A high-quality vision training such as Amblyoplay can nonetheless be effective in amblyopia caused by either strabismus or any other reason for that matter.