Amblyopia is a disorder that arises in children within the critical period for the development of vision. This is, by definition, the first 8 years of one’s life. Humans are born with very poorly developed vision which is very strongly influenced by visual input from the eyes in early life. In other words, the balanced input from the two eyes instruct proper development of parts of brain responsible for sight, hence vision. If, for whatever reason, the visual input from the two eyes is unbalanced or diminished, amblyopia ensues. Click here and here if you would like to know in which special circumstances amblyopia can present bilaterally. Now, to the core topic – treatment of amblyopia.
When to initiate amblyopia treatment?
Amblyopia is generally treated as soon as it is diagnosed, or at least it should be. Studies show that the sooner the treatment is initiated the better the outcome. In certain cases, though, amblyopia itself cannot be addressed before the cause is removed, as for instance in cases of congenital cataract.
Indeed, any form of visual deprivation in early infancy usually results in very deep amblyopia that does not respond well to treatment unless the cause is removed in the first couple of months in one’s life. Click here to read more about whether the cause or amblyopia itself should be treated first. In terms of age then, if amblyopia treatment is initiated before the age of 8-10 years, a favorable outcome can be expected (apart from some severe individual cases). That said, there are reports that show that certain improvements can be possible even beyond the critical period for the development of vision and well into the adulthood.
To sum up, treat amblyopia as soon as it is diagnosed and do not give up on treatment even if you have missed the time period most guidelines define as best. When is it too late then? As long as there is improvement with treatment, it is never too late, regardless of age. Indeed, there is an increasing number of success stories by patients in their 60s and 70s who are investing their time in vision therapy and activities that stimulate their lazy eye! So – never give up trying!