We ran across two interesting statistics - one from the National Eye Institute, one from the Children’s Defense fund. Put the two together, and you get an idea how prevalent lazy eye really is, and why so many children struggle in school.
This little exercise began when we researched the number of children that suffer from lazy eye, or amblyopia. According to the National Eye Institute, approximately 2 to 3 out of every 100 children suffer from amblyopia or lazy eye. In other words, 2-3 percent.
We then visited the website for the Children’s Defense Fund. They report 1,317,557 children live in Wisconsin.
Using our astute mathematics skills, we multiplied the number of children by .02 (to be on the conservative side), and arrived at the rather shocking number: 26,351.
Why is that number so significant, and exactly what impact does lazy eye have on students? Oh, we’re so glad you asked.
Lazy Eye (Amblyopia) is a Functional Vision Problem
We’ve talked repeatedly about functional vision problems in this blog, and we’ll continue to do so. Why? Because functional vision problems are different than just a focusing problem, which is generally an issue that can be solved with glasses.
Functional vision is your ability to see an object in space. It requires your entire visual system to work in harmony - your eyes, your brain, your visual pathways.
If your eyes are working together to create binocular vision, the two images each eye produces are combined in your brain to produce a single, three-dimensional image. This process gives you depth perception.
With lazy eye, or amblyopia, this process is disrupted because one of the eyes does not see an object as well as the other eye. This could be because of pathology in the eye, that it’s slightly turned (strabismus), or that the person is highly nearsighted, far-sighted, or has a high amount of astigmatism in one or both eyes. All these conditions can affect the image produced in the brain.
We get the term “lazy eye” because one eye is not “working” as hard as the other. The truth is, the lazy eye is probably working even harder than the other eye, but it simply can’t produce a clear image. Perhaps it should be called “dysfunctional eye.”
When the "lazy eye" fails to produce a clear vision, the brain will prefer the clear image and ignore the image that is less clear. Thus, the 3D image can no longer be created in the brain. Depth perception and eye tracking are two problems that can result.
26,351 Struggling Learners?
So what happens when 26,351 children have lazy eye? It can significantly impact them in school, for starters. They can struggle in a number of ways, including:
* Following a line of text on a page
* Seeing objects or text clearly on a whiteboard
* Concentrating or being able to read for long periods of time
* Tracking a ball as it flies through the air
These are typical symptoms of lazy eye. If even half of this number of students suffers from these symptoms, that’s a significant drain on our resources - especially when there is a treatment.
How can lazy eye be cured? By using vision therapy to restore binocular vision.
Vision therapy is a series of activities and exercises that can restore the functionality of the lazy eye. Under the care of a developmental optometrist and a vision therapist, these activities will retrain the brain to use the two eyes together and develop normal binocular vision.
Patching and/or prescription glasses may be used in conjunction with the vision therapy to achieve maximum results.
In an era when so much pressure is being placed on teachers and schools to perform, perhaps a closer look at functional vision problems as a root cause for poor student performance should be taken into account.
Download our guide on Amblyopia to learn more.