Sometimes the best part of what we do is surprising the heck out of people when we help improve their vision. A case in point: Revealing that for amblyopes, there is the potential for lazy eye correction for adults.
Is this shocking? For many developmental optometrists out there, this is nothing new. We’re keenly aware of the misconception in the scientific and medical communities: Some practitioners believe there is no effective treatment for lazy eye in children older than the age of eight.
Adult amblyopes may be surprised (and overjoyed) to learn that this just isn’t the case. Adults can be treated for amblyopia.
Why the Misconception Over Lazy Eye Correction for Adults
Neuroscientist Sue Barry, in her book Fixing My Gaze, notes that since the mid 1990s, “scientific and medical communities have cited strabismus and a related disorder called amblyopia as classic examples of developmental disorders that cause permanent changes in vision if they are not corrected in a critical period in early life.”
The reason for the confusion can be tied back to some scientific research performed by David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel at Harvard Medical School. The two studied cats with strabismus, or turned eyes. It was noted that the cats could not see in 3D (also known as stereo vision) because they had not developed normally.
From this research, doctors and scientists assumed the cats would never acquire stereo vision since they had never developed it during the critical period of vision development, which are approximately ages two to eight.
It was assumed that if certain skills were not learned by the brain at this early age, it just wouldn’t happen.
Research Proves Them Wrong
Recent research tells us a different story. The circuitry of the brain can actually change at any age as a result of our actions and experiences.
In fact, a study, funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), appeared in the April issue of Archives of Ophthalmology. According to the director of the NEI, Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., “Doctors now feel confident that traditional treatments for amblyopia will work for many older children.”
While the “traditional treatments” this statement refers to is patching, more research indicates that treating a patient with vision therapy, in conjunction with a limited amount of patching, is most effective.
If you’re an adult, and have suffered from amblyopia your entire life, you may not exactly be shocked to read this article. Medical research dispels previously held notions quite often. But we’d be shocked if you didn’t schedule a Functional Vision Test with a developmental optometrist to see what can be done to treat your lazy eye.