Eye test helps to identify lazy eye

March 5, 2013 2:33:16 PM PST
It's called lazy eye, and it happens when one eye doesn't develop normally as the fetus grows in the womb. There's some discussion recently about whether a simple eye test is needed.

It's a screening test called photo screening that can be done as on a child after only a year of age or in schools later on. One expert panel has a reservation about how early the test should be done. We spoke with an eye specialist who feels that earlier is better.

Five year old Ivan Cao had ambliopia, a lazy eye. It was picked up by photo-screening that can find it even in babies a year old. For kids a year to 3 years old, screening hasn't been researched enough to see if it prevents problems later in life, says one report. That's not the view of eye specialist Jay Wisnicki.

"Ambliopia is better treated at a very young age. It's better and it's faster," Dr. Jay Wisnicki of Beth Israel Medical Center said.

It's treatable up to about age eight. This can be the result without treatment, a crossed eye or one that drifts out. Many times the eye becomes blind. Older kids like Ivan can read an eye chart. Toddlers need photo-screening.

The photo-screening test is based on the same principle as the camera in your smartphone. It's red eye, the flash reflected off the retina. This can happen with lazy eye, a poor red reflection from one eye. That eye isn't focusing.

Dr. Wisnicki checked Ivan's eyes after his test. The right was normal, but the left was not. Here are the glasses he made for Ivan, you can see how powerful the correction is on the left. An eye patch in place over the good eye forces the bad eye to work. Here's the before, and after with glasses on this patient. Ivan will wear the patch a couple hours daily for three to six months. It's already working.

Ivan says he can see better and play soccer better.

"Cause I can see closer," he said.

Photo testing can be done in school, daycare, anyplace where kids gather. After three to six months of his eye patch, Ivan will need only glasses which give him 20/20 vision. Dr. Wisnicki says if his lazy eye was not picked up until age seven, he would need the patch for twice as long.