Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ocular Amblyopia

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday. It is too important not to share with you. So all you moms out there, listen up!

Right about the time school started, Snapper began complaining that she couldn't get her eyes to focus. We noticed that she was squinting much of the time, and was rubbing her eyes a lot. Her teacher conferenced with us about her concerns. Apparently Snapper has to stand right underneath the whiteboard to read it and copy assignments off of it. I wondered if she might not be just wanting glasses. I set up a vision test with our pediatrician, and observed Snapper until the exam date. The poor vision was confirmed for me last week when I bought her a new shirt. It had rows of small flowers on it. Even though Snapper stood only 3 feet away from the shirt, she insisted the flowers were polka dots. At the pediatrician's office, she couldn't even read the top row on the vision chart.
We had our appointment with the opthamologist yesterday, and Snapper was diagnosed with ocular amblyopia. In this condition, one eye develops unable to focus, and the other eye becomes dominant. The affected eye becomes "lazy." and its ability to see deteriorates. If left undiagnosed until a child is 8 or 9, the damage can be uncorrectable.

Since Snapper was a baby, her brain has learned to ignore the fuzzy images from the right eye, so the eye has stopped working. She has almost no vision in the right eye. Unfortunately, she has inherited my poor vision in her left eye as well. The doctor held lenses to my eyes that showed me how Snapper views the world. Her right eye sees as well as I can see underwater. The left eye is very blurry. It is so sad! I don't know how she has functioned like this for so long!

There is good news.

1. The eye itself and the optic nerve are completely normal and healthy.
2. Both eyes have peripheral vision, depth perception, and can distinguish 3-D images.

The treatment plan is going to be hefty, though. Snapper will start with wearing very strong glasses. She'll get 6 weeks to adjust to the glasses. Then she'll have to start wearing a patch over her left eye in order to make the right eye work. She will have check-ups every 6 weeks to monitor her progress. If there is not significant improvement in a year, she will undergo surgery to correct the right eye.

The doctor is optimistic that we will not need surgery. We are going to have to be vigilant with the patch and glasses, though. Here's the other good news. As you know, Snapper has always been dramatic and has been very fearful. The doctor thinks the fearfulness is a direct result of her poor eyesight. We are hoping that having improved vision will diminish Snapper's fear! Wouldn't that be amazing and wonderful! Snapper's glasses should arrive Monday or Tuesday. We are eagerly anticipating the whole new world that will open to her once she can see!!!

Here's the take-home that I really want all mommies to listen to. The doctor told me that all children should get their eyes checked by an opthamologist (not optometrist) before they enter school, even if you don't suspect any vision problems. If even one parent has any vision impairment, the children should be checked at age 3. If I had checked Snapper's eyes earlier, the problem wouldn't be as severe as it is, and we likely could have avoided the intensity of treatments. Please get your kids' eyes checked!


Tara said...

As you know from reading my blog, I've dealt with terrible eyesight for a long time. It is definitely something to never put on the back burner. I hope the Tx plan works and surgery isn't required. Good luck to y'all! Def. keep us updated...

Lauren said...

Thanks for the info! James has passed all his vision tests at the doctor and school, but not without some problems (he failed the one at school first, then went back and passed it.) I am thinking about taking him to the ophthalmologist now, especially after your experience. I'm glad Snapper's problem is fixable! Thanks again for sharing!

hellokittiemama said...

My daughter was dx'd with amblyopia in march, the school found it. I run a blog about amblyopia at if you would like to share your story there, just drop me a note.

Kristin said...

I remember when Clara came home with a failed vision test from school when she was 5. I felt terrible - I'd had no idea. You are right - if I'd had her eyes checked earlier, it would have been so much better! At least now you know for your little boy, too.

Southern Belle said...

Thanks for posting this. I will be sure to have my kids eyesight checked soon. Praying Snapper's eyesight improves quickly without surgery. = )

Proud USMC Wife said...

I also had this was I was young. The patch exercises cured me (with the help of God). I didn't have problems again until I was about 20 and now I have to wear them when I drive.

Lori said...

Wow - thank you for that reminder. We'll be praying for her vision and that the patching/glasses go well. Can't wait to see how God works though this situation! He is so good!