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Amblyopia Treatment for Adults – Is It Possible?

  
  
  

Amblyopia Treatment for Adults resized 600

We field inquiries literally from all over the world regarding amblyopia treatment for adults.  The question is always the same:  Am I too old to get treatment for my lazy eye?  And our answer is always the same:  People of all ages can be treated for amblyopia.

Why is there so much confusion over the issue?  There are actually two issues to consider here:

  1. Can amblyopia (lazy eye) be treated at all?
  2. Is there an age cut-off for treatment?


To answer both questions, we must first define amblyopia, or lazy eye.

Amblyopia is a condition in which one (or both) eye(s) has poorer visual acuity than expected with prescription lenses.  The “lazy eye” nickname is derived from the thought that the eye with clearer vision must do the bulk of seeing.

Many people confuse lazy eye with strabismus, which can be “crossed eyes” or any type of eye turn.  They shouldn’t, because it is a separate condition that can exist with or without strabismus.

The issue is that one eye just isn’t seeing clearly.  Why?  Due to high amounts of nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and/or the presence of a constant eye turn, the brain has suppressed (turned off) the information in that eye and this suppression negatively impacts the development of clear vision.

Normally, the brain receives two images at slightly different angles and it combines them to produce a 3D image.  

With amblyopia, the brain suppresses one of these images and this negatively impacts a person’s binocular vision. He or she may have a number of functional vision problems, such as poor depth perception and poor eye tracking.

Dr. Sue Barry, who suffered from strabismus, explains what happens when binocular vision doesn’t work correctly.



Can Amblyopia Be Treated At All?

Amblyopia can be treated because the brain has “plasticity.”  The circuitry of the brain can actually change at any age.  

We use vision therapy to retrain the visual system.  This includes not only the eyes, but also the brain and the visual pathways.  

As described on the website of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, treatment for amblyopia includes:

  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses (proper lenses can help reduce stress so that the under-used eye can start to work more efficiently);
  • Forcing the weaker eye to work by blocking or fogging the favored eye with special lenses, an eye patch or eye drops;
  • A program of vision therapy to help equalize vision in both eyes, improve eye coordination, and restore clear single vision

Without a doubt, vision therapy is most effective when it’s administered at an early age.  The plasticity of the brain generally decreases as a person ages.
A person’s visual system adapts so that they can function despite their visual limitations.  Dr. Barry herself is a prime example.  A neurobiologist, she managed to succeed in life despite her vision problems.

We see this everyday, with adult patients who have adapted and persevered despite their vision problems.  That doesn’t mean it has been easy; for example, we might see a college student who gets good grades, but has to spend twice as much time studying as his peers.

Treating Amblyopia in Adults

The confusion over whether amblyopia can be treated in adults may be related to some scientific research conducted at Harvard Medical School, in which they treated cats with amblyopia.   (We detail this story in a previous post on amblyopia.)

The researchers believed the cats would not recover their stereovision because they were beyond the critical period of vision development, which is approximately ages two to eight. We now know that the end of the critical period means that treatment of amblyopia will be more difficult, but not impossible.

In her book, Dr. Barry offers up an amazing example of an amblyopic who experienced the brain’s plasticity at an older age.

“One of my friends, nicknamed Red Greene, discovered for himself the intimate relationship between where his eyes were aiming and where he located objects in space.  Although Red was a housepainter who climbed ladders and painted houses for many years, he was amblyopic: Since early childhood, he had very poor vision in his right eye.  For most of his life, the world seen through his right eye looked like the view through the frosted glass of a shower door.

When Red was in his fifties, the vision in his left or “good” eye deteriorated, a situation that could have proved dire except that acuity improved dramatically in his weak right eye. In fact, his right eye now has 20/20 acuity.  While this turn of events may seem surprising, similar cases have been documented in which the amblyopic eye regains vision following severe impairment of the “good” eye.”

Barry’s anecdotal story is accompanied by references to scientific studies:

Evidence lurking in the scientific literature for at least the last half-century indicates that amblyopia can be treated in adulthood.  As early as 1957, Carl Kupfer published a study in which he showed dramatic improvements in adult amblyopes after a four-week period of patching combined with vision therapy.  In a 1977 study, Martin Birnbaum and his colleagues reviewed twenty-three published studies on amblyopia and reported that improvements in eyesight were found for all ages.  Sadly, these and other studies continue to be overlooked.  Many doctors still believe that amblyopia can be treated only in young children.

The good news for adults with amblyopia is that there is a possibility for improved vision.  But there are no guarantees.  Every case is different, and every patient must be thoroughly evaluated through a Functional Vision Test.  

However, we strongly encourage you to visit a Developmental Optometrist and see if treatment is possible for you.  If you live in Wisconsin, contact The Vision Therapy Center.  If you live outside Wisconsin and/or the United States, this article can provide you with links to Developmental Optometrists all over the world.


Photo by: Lisa Edmonds.

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The Vision Therapy Center has helped over 2,000 people overcome vision problems since 1995, and has Wisconsin vision therapy offices in Brookfield and Madison.

Comments

I would be very interested in connecting with adults who successfully underwent vision therapy to treat their Amblyopia.
Posted @ Tuesday, May 21, 2013 7:57 AM by Beck John
If you live in Wisconsin and would be interested in contacting some of our patients, we may be able to help you. Based on HIPPA and patient confidentiality, we would have to check with patients to see if they're open to a discussion. Contact us via our website to make a request - www.thevisiontherapycenter.com
Posted @ Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:58 AM by Greg Mischio
Could You recommend any good optometrist center in Europe especially in Poland?
Posted @ Friday, May 24, 2013 3:34 PM by Mary
I actually just want to know if treatment will correct whatever is causing the eye to cross. 
Because believe it or not it doesnt bother me that i have no vision in my right eye, however when im not wearing my glasses my eye crossed so bad that its noticeable. I would love to take off my glasses and not worry about what other people are thinking or saying about my "crossed eye"
Posted @ Sunday, May 26, 2013 12:44 AM by Tiffany Finney
Mary and Tiffany - please reread the last paragraph of the article. Mary - there is a link to vision therapists outside the US. Tiffany, if you live in Wisconsin, we would need to see you to determine if treatments is possible.
Posted @ Tuesday, May 28, 2013 9:17 PM by Greg Mischio
I am from Bangladesh. my elder sister of 28 years old got amblyopia (SPH: -0.25 CYL: -4.00 AXIS: 20) in her right eye since her teenage.her left eye got myopia (SPH: -1 CYL: -0.5 AXIS: 5) is there any possibility that she will get recovered by any means? any solution/permanent solution? is there any suggestion where, within Bangladesh, should we take her for better treatment?
Posted @ Sunday, June 16, 2013 11:09 AM by Ashfaq
Please refer to the last article of the paragraph for links to where you might be able to find a developmental optometrist in Bangladesh.
Posted @ Monday, June 17, 2013 3:44 PM by Greg Mischio
I have tried to gather evidence of treatments. But no success till now... 
 
I am suprised that it seems that no scientific evidence of success is published or available. I tried finding some confirmed succesfull treatments and their results. 
 
But I have only received replies from Ophtalmologists (US, France etc...) which all said: Nothing possible. Some even saying don't do this. One is specialised in dipliopia and claims this is the main cause of it. 
Others mentionning that if this was possible how come there is no written scitific proofs with clinical trials. 
 
I would love to read about any findings, successes etc... But seems it is not available. 
 
PS: I already wrote via the vision therapy center but haven't received reply unless lost in cyberspace.
Posted @ Monday, June 24, 2013 7:32 AM by Beck
Beck - Download the report on Lazy Eye at the end of the article. It links to research conducted on lazy eye.
Posted @ Thursday, June 27, 2013 1:40 PM by Greg Mischio
Thanks for your reply. 
 
Sorry, forgot the precision. I am specificaly looking for adult amblyopia.
Posted @ Thursday, June 27, 2013 3:07 PM by Beck
Vision therapy works on adults as well as children. This is also referenced in the report.
Posted @ Thursday, June 27, 2013 3:11 PM by Greg Mischio
My son is 5 yelara old. He has got Sph:- cly:1.75x30,in right eye, 
SHP:7,cly:1.5x90, 
İs there any possibility for the solution.  
Posted @ Monday, July 15, 2013 7:36 PM by
We would need to see your son to determine if we can help him. Do you live in Wisconsin, US?
Posted @ Monday, July 15, 2013 10:03 PM by Greg Mischio
Hello,  
My name is Maria, I am 34. I was told I had amblyopia when I was 9. At that moment, doctors told me that it was too late to improve my vision. They recommended me the patch in order not to lose conversion. Many years later, I got a laser surgery for helping the lazy eye vision. I´ve been using the patch intermitently and lenses just for lazy eye. 
Thank you for this article! I have hope again because I know now that I can improve my conversion and get 3D vision; and who knows, my lazy eye´s poor vision might improve too. It´s not too late. 
 
Do you know a good vision therapist for my case in NYC? 
Thanks!
Posted @ Monday, August 12, 2013 11:26 AM by Maria
Thanks Maria - We hope you can be helped. Here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area. I'll also ask the doctors if they know of someone in NYC.
Posted @ Monday, August 12, 2013 12:34 PM by Greg Mischio
My name is melaku from ethiopia.I am 22& a third year medical student in addis ababa university.I was told to have amblyopia of left eye 
last year.i am highly botherd about my problem.even though i am good academicaly ,i have to spend more time on my studies.but iam hoping my vision would be improved in the near future.
Posted @ Thursday, August 15, 2013 3:03 AM by melaku
Melaku - amblyopia can be corrected in adults too. Not sure if there is a developmental optometrist near you, but here are some links on how to find a developmental optometrist.
Posted @ Thursday, August 15, 2013 9:23 AM by Greg Mischio
I am from kuwait my 10 years old son has amblyopia in one eye about 5 doctors in my country told me there is nothing can be done I took him to germany and I the anwer from several doctors ,I have been also told don't even try patching he is to old for that I don't know what to do . I started patching the good eye 8 ours per day on my own based on my resech on internet using also corrective glasses. I have been doing that for 5 months now his sight improved from 20/400 to 20/150 and there is no vision therapist that I know of in my country I took him to the doctor a gain to proove to that there is hope he told don't waste your time this because of the glasses and the best he can reach is 20/100 which is nothing and he will loose it again. I told him about the development in the field of treating amblyopia for adults he said all I know about that but it is all abuch of hopeless dreams and he said they are (digging in water)its a phrase that we use I really really don't know what to do I need help I am continuing the patching but till when I can't be his doctor cause I am not a doctor and at the same time I don't want to give up hope
Posted @ Thursday, August 22, 2013 4:45 AM by nasser
Nasser - sounds incredibly frustrating. We are based in the United States, so if you could travel here, we could perform a diagnosis and let you know if we could help your son. Contact us atwww.thevisiontherapycenter.com for more information on how to schedule an appointment. If that doesn't work, here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:30 PM by Greg Mischio
Hi Dr. Greg 
 
I am 36 years old from Saudi Arabia and having amblyopia in my right eye. This causes headache and my eye most frequently looks smaller than the other and cross sometimes especially when I am tired after a busy day. 
Is there any hope at least to improve my vision?! 
Posted @ Thursday, August 29, 2013 5:53 AM by Majed
We would really need to see you to evaluate your situation. We don't have any offices in Saudi Arabia, but here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Thursday, August 29, 2013 10:08 AM by Greg Mischio
Sue Barry had never had amblyopia! She says so in her book and that is because she had alternating strabismus, so her brain received proper images from each eye, although one at a time.
Posted @ Friday, September 13, 2013 8:15 AM by Romina
We agree, and we stated it in the article (see paragraph above the video). She did write about amblyopia in her book, which we quoted here.
Posted @ Friday, September 13, 2013 12:03 PM by Greg Mischio
I just watched this fascinating video by Sue Barry and would love to be able to find out more. I'm 47, have a lazy eye and my strong eye is getting weaker so considering next step. (I did wear a patch over my eye when young which helped for a little bit, but ended up just using my stronger right eye and not correcting for it at all.) I also have something else to consider -- I will be having Chiari 1 decompression surgery in the next year and am wondering how this plays into the equation? I live part of the year in the Czech Republic as a missionary but am from the Finger Lakes area of Upstate NY. Thanks for your helpful information & God bless,
Posted @ Friday, October 04, 2013 3:52 AM by JoanIe Hull
We would need to see you to evaluate your situation. We don't have any offices in New York, but here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Friday, October 04, 2013 4:59 PM by Greg Mischio
I am concerned about the way therapists seem to be overlooking the positive approach/ to therapy: i.e., instead of punishing the good eye, how about rewarding the weak eye, e.g., by way of images in some binocular game set-up - it's not rocket science! What kind of medico-academic ethos punishes the healthy?
Posted @ Sunday, October 06, 2013 8:00 AM by Richard Comaish
Richard - no one is punishing the good eye. Our whole goal is to get the eyes to work together and restore binocular vision.
Posted @ Monday, October 07, 2013 9:34 AM by Greg Mischio
I know you mean well, but the limitation of the good eye seems an unnecessary part of encouraging the weak eye, and the path to Niflheim is paved with good intentions...
Posted @ Monday, October 07, 2013 11:22 AM by Richard Comaish
Not to belabor the point, but the ideal state is to get both eyes to work together. If the images can't be combined in the brain, then the amblyopia will continue.
Posted @ Monday, October 07, 2013 11:24 AM by Greg Mischio
Yes, I know - I understand you perfectly. Just not sure my point registered?
Posted @ Monday, October 07, 2013 11:31 AM by Richard Comaish
Yes thanks for your comments!
Posted @ Monday, October 07, 2013 11:55 AM by Greg Mischio
I am 42 years old man from IRAN can you help me please helpe
Posted @ Monday, October 28, 2013 4:55 PM by majid
We would need to see you to evaluate your situation. We don't have any offices in Iran, but here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Friday, November 01, 2013 4:46 PM by Greg Mischio
Hi,I was diagnose with amblyopia( lazy eye) in my left eye, over 7 years ago! The Dr was in Romania and she prescribe Tanakan and Mirtilene( for all my life 3 months on ,3 months off ,every 20 days on- 10 off) saying it's all that she can do for me! I now live in NYC,there is any way you can recommend a good Dr in my area and what can be done being 34 years of age! Thank you
Posted @ Monday, November 04, 2013 9:56 AM by Virginia
Here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Monday, November 04, 2013 10:01 AM by Greg Mischio
Hello I'm 19 years old and am pretty legally blind in the right eye. This condition is going to hinder me from doing what I want to do in life. Do you recommend that any dr.s in AZ??
Posted @ Sunday, December 01, 2013 12:45 PM by Dan
Here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area. Anyone recommended by the COVD can help you. 
Posted @ Wednesday, December 04, 2013 6:57 PM by Greg Mischio
is there any vision therapy center in U.P. India?
Posted @ Saturday, December 07, 2013 6:35 AM by Maera Ahmad
We don't have any offices in India, but here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Monday, December 09, 2013 12:49 PM by Greg Mischio
Hi. In Armenia I could not find patch. who can help me? I need it. My left eye is lazy eye. I am 25.
Posted @ Saturday, January 18, 2014 2:19 PM by Artak
We don't have any offices in Armenia, but here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Sunday, January 19, 2014 9:37 AM by Greg Mischio
Patches look so odd, it puts me off experimenting with them in adulthood. Adjusting scarves & headgear to have the same effect is a limited but possible option...
Posted @ Sunday, January 19, 2014 10:03 AM by Richard Comaish
I am 34 year old men from india. I have a problem of amblyopia in right eye. Is there any hope to get well. Please suggest me.
Posted @ Thursday, January 23, 2014 9:53 AM by gyanan lama
Hi im 31 and am undergoing vision therapy at the moment and my vision in the lazy eye is slowly improving in just under 3 weeks, but we i do patch my good eye and use my lazy eye, i remove the patch and notice my good eye is turning intowards my lazy eye to help with the focus, will this damage the alignment of my good eye? Or should i just patch every so often? 
 
Thanks alot
Posted @ Sunday, January 26, 2014 10:33 PM by john
I'm sorry, but unless you're a patient or have been examined by one of our doctors, we really can't offer medical advice.
Posted @ Monday, January 27, 2014 6:31 PM by Greg Mischio
I live in the Chicago area suburbs. Have worn glasses since age 11 (I'm 64), have astigmatism in both eyes, however, right eye is much worse & as I age, I have less & less control over the eye "traveling" outward. Having a harder time passing the eye test at the DMV, & quality of life is becoming impaired. I can feel the eye traveling, & must exert a lot of will power to re-align it. Eye doctors I have been to say that because of my age, there is nothing they can do. Any suggestions? Thanks.
Posted @ Tuesday, February 11, 2014 5:38 PM by Bonnie Owens
I'm 38 and was patched as achild, although I'm told my vision is quite good and only need glasses for reading, I've noticed that my lazy eye is getting worse. At the end of the day and when I make close eye contact with someone I'm aware of it turning inwards. It's really effecting my confidence and I feel awkward making eye contact. I'm in the uk and although I've been assessed by our NHS system they've said there's nothing else to be done. Any advice?
Posted @ Sunday, February 16, 2014 4:34 PM by Rebecca
Bonnie and Rebecca - try and find a developmental optometrist in the area. Some of my prior posted replies show links to finding developmental optometrists. They will next examine you to determine if they can help.
Posted @ Thursday, February 20, 2014 7:31 PM by Greg Mischio
I have had a lazy left eye from the time I was a child and when I was little nurses had picked it up but in South Africa we didn't have the means nor technology available to properly diagnose or treat. I am now 24 and still have the same problem. I also fear that my eye will drift which causes me to avoid looking people in the eye. This article has given me hope that I will see with my left eye at least slightly. I honestly thought it was too late. Thank you.
Posted @ Monday, March 17, 2014 1:12 PM by danz
My son James suffers from this. He's 15, we tried patching when he was younger, but it didn't work. He says looking out his "bad eye" looks like looking through frosted glass. He plays hockey at a very high level, but often doesn't see the guy going to hit him. Help! We live just south of Boston, his ophthalmologist said nothing could be done. I think she's nuts. There has to be something.
Posted @ Monday, March 24, 2014 10:59 PM by Dennis Golden
Read this article and watch the video. Fascinating
Posted @ Wednesday, March 26, 2014 3:07 PM by Sally Papineau
Here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Monday, March 31, 2014 10:34 AM by Greg Mischio
Great post! I've been reading a lot about eye care recently. Thanks for the info!
Posted @ Monday, March 31, 2014 3:37 PM by Eye Health
I have adult amblyopia in right eye. I wanted to try patching good eye. My question should I try eyercises with corrective lenses or without my glasses.please let me know if possible.thank you
Posted @ Tuesday, April 01, 2014 11:26 PM by scott
Scott - I would recommend you see a developmental optometrists to assess the proper course of action.
Posted @ Wednesday, April 09, 2014 3:44 PM by Greg Mischio
Hi iam 23years having amblyopia science i have 5year after acataract operation now i am in last year of medical collage at egypt i hope i can get your help to treat my single eye proplem as iam suferring during practice medical works and the other eye retarded in visin  
How can i get your help from egypt and how much the therapy cost? 
"thank you"
Posted @ Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8:00 PM by dr doaa sayed
Hi. I have amblyopia in the left eye since birth. I am 62, S African living in the UK. I have as recently as last year been told there is nothing that could be done to improve the vision in the left eye. This concerns me as 
I still need to work. At my age can something be done?
Posted @ Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:49 AM by Marcus
We would need to see you to evaluate your situation. We don't have any offices in Egypt or the UK, but here's a link to an article on how to find a developmental optometrist in your area.
Posted @ Saturday, April 19, 2014 8:35 AM by Greg Mischio
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