5% of the population suffers from an eye condition called Amblyopia, and it's one of those problems parents hope they won't have to share with their kids.
"My mother has it, also my sister, my aunts, my cousins, it's really prevalent in our family," says Jamie Magda, parent.
And both Jamie's kids have it. Alisha has the telltale sign: when one eye crosses, but Ashleigh doesn't, so for years no one knew why she constantly complained of headaches. In kids with Amblyopia, one eye has more trouble communicating with the brain than the other.
The concern is this: if it isn't treated before age seven, it could cause permanent blindness.
"In order to have Amblyopia, you don't have to have crossed eyes. You can have perfectly straight eyes and be blind in one eye and nobody would know it. The development of the visual system in a child is a lot like concrete hardening. After a critical period, the concrete hardens, and there's no time left to fix things," says Dr. Jim Ruben, pediatric opthalmologist.
Now, here's what's new. Most kids wear a patch to help the brain learn to communicate better with the weaker eye. But now, Dr. Ruben and his colleagues are testing a new alternative. They are giving some children standard eye dilation drops in one eye, blurring the stronger eye so the weaker eye has a chance to catch up.
They say the results appear just as good as when they use the patch, without the hassle of wearing a patch. Amblyopia isn't always hereditary. So, don't assume your kids are safe because no one in the family has Amblyopia. Dr. Ruben says it's not unusual for kids to try harder during an eye test and manage to slip through a routine screening, but you don't want a problem like this to go undetected.
So, if you suspect that your child might have Amblyopia, again, that's when one eye is weaker than the other, you might want to ask your pediatrician for a referral to a pediatric opthalmologist for further testing.