Lazy Eye In Adults: Little Everyday Difficulties That May Be Due to Amblyopia

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Sometimes minor difficulties, inconveniences, or other related situations could be due to Amblyopia without us being aware.

Have you ever wondered why parking or filling a bottle of water is so difficult without pouring some of its contents out? (Inspired by my personal experiences)

These are a few examples that we may encounter in our daily routine and may not know what is due to our Amblyopia and lack of stereopsis.

Lazy Eye in Adults

Our ophthalmologist may have told us after an eye exam that we suffered from a Lazy Eye as children. Perhaps, we were fitted with glasses and an eye patch on our dominant eye for several months or even a few years in our childhood.

With time, and after performing the appropriate tests, they may have told us that we had recovered the visual acuity in ‘that Lazy Eye’ and that wearing the eye patch was no longer necessary.

Perhaps we thought we were ‘cured’ and could ‘see well,’ but this was far from the truth. As the years went by, we got used to accepting that whatever we saw was perfect.. however, have you ever noticed any of the following?

When going down the escalators in a shopping mall, is the first foot you put on the ground possibly, a little insecure’?

Perhaps you found out you were not as good at dancing as you’d hoped because you stepped on their feet and had a different rhythm than our companion?

If this has ever happened to you, read on. Maybe we amblyopic adults have more things in common than we thought…

What Is Amblyopia Or Lazy Eye?

Amblyopia is a binocular disorder involving both eyes, not only the ‘eye’ known as the ‘Lazy Eye.’

The brain cannot assimilate the images provided by the retinas of both eyes, as these are very different from each other, and is forced to recognize only one of the two images. The image that will be suppressed will be the image of the lazy eye.

Without two very similar images provided by each eye, it is not possible to have binocular vision since this is achieved with the collaboration of both eyes and the brain. Together they provide a ‘full, merged image’ providing us with the ability to perceive depth.

By covering the dominant eye with an eye patch, we will gain visual acuity in the weaker eye since it will not have any support to perform the work of seeing. However, when the patch is removed, the two eyes will not have learned to work together, which is needed to have binocular vision and see in three dimensions.

Adults With Amblyopia Learn To Use Other Depth Indicators

Some adults with ‘Lazy Eye’ have lived their entire lives without enjoying 3-dimensional vision and are unaware they do not have it. 

Our organism has learned to adapt to living in a three-dimensional environment based on slight ‘tips/hints’ or indicators such as shadows, guestimating distance, and closeness of objects based on whether we see them bigger or smaller, etc.

What kind of depth Indicators are we talking about? 

Blurriness Or Clarity

Of what is in front of us, i.e., we tend to perceive what is closer to us more clearly, sharper, and with its contours more defined, as opposed to what is farther away, which we perceive as more blurred.

The Size and Location of Objects

When we are presented with an object familiar to us, we tend to be aware of its actual size despite perceiving it as having a different size depending on its distance from us. 

In other words, when observing an object in the distance, we can perceive it as smaller than it really is. 

At the same time, it is also possible for our retina to perceive two objects as being of the same similar size despite us knowing that one is actually larger than the other.

This effect will depend on the location of the two objects; one will be closer to us and the other farther away from us. 

The same happens when two objects are actually the same size while perceived as one being larger than the other. This is also due to the distance between the two objects and their distance from us.

The Height Above The Horizon Line.

If we look towards the horizon line, the objects that are closer to it will be perceived as objects farther away from us. In turn, when we see objects located at a lower height and farther from the horizon line, we will perceive them as closer. 

Overlapping or Superimposition of Objects

This effect occurs when an object is partially obscured by another object in front of it; we will perceive the object behind as being farther away from the object in front of it. We use this to our advantage even though we don’t have depth perception. 

And finally,

Shadows and Light

The shadow and light ‘indicators’ will influence our perception of objects and how we assign relief to an object.

Does Lazy Eye in Adults Have a Solution?

One case, in particular, is that of neuroscientist Susan Barry, which we greatly admire and can be a source of inspiration and motivation for any adult who wishes to improve their stereopsis.

Ms. Barry was able, through training her eyes, to have 3D vision after spending more than 40 years of her life not knowing that the world she knew was flat.

If you want to learn more about her case, read here.

Each person is different, and so is their situation, so we strongly recommend that you visit an optometrist to find out your options.

On the other hand, even if you are amblyopic, you may not share all the mentioned oddities or perhaps only some of them.

Here are some examples we might observe in our daily routine if we have Amblyopia. (at least in our case)

Lazy Eye And Some Of Its Potential 'Consequences.'

  • Bumping into door frames

  • Tripping often

  • Being clumsy

  • Not having great ability in sports

  • Difficulty measuring distances behind the wheel (driving and parking)

  • Difficulty pouring water into a bottle

  • Difficulty sewing

  • Difficulty watching 3-D movies

No rhythm when dancing

There may be an even longer list of minor difficulties that arise in our daily lives. Still, we never considered this could be due to our lack of stereopsis and binocularity.

  • Have you ever had difficulty placing several objects correctly in a space? For example, setting pots and pans in their drawer without forcing the door to close.

But why do all these things happen to us? Isn’t it just one eye that doesn’t see well? Actually, it’s not.

As we indicated above, Amblyopia refers to a binocular problem, that is, of the two eyes (not just the weaker eye) and their relationship with the brain and the visual pathways that communicate them. In other words, the condition of Lazy Eye has to do with the entire optical system.

During the development of these pathways, no stereopsis capability was achieved, and the brain was forced to suppress the image of one of the two eyes. And this fact causes many other visual skills to be affected.

Visual Abilities That Can Be Affected By Amblyopia

As Pilar Vergara points out in her book ‘So Much Intelligence, So Little Performance’, the visual skills that may be affected are:

Visual acuity,

When discussing visual acuity, we refer to the ability to see clearly. A decrease in this visual ability may induce us to wink or have blurred vision, either near or far.

Eye Coordination,

This refers to the ability of the two eyes to work together and with the brain, known as binocularity. Eye coordination is related to the control of eye movements and the ability to focus.

Eye Movement Control,

There are three types of eye movements:

  • Fixation: -which refers to keeping the eyes fixated on one point.
  • Saccadic movements: jumping with our sight from one point to another.
  • Tracking, smooth movements.

These three types of eye movements allow us, for example, to change fixation from a distant point to a nearby one or to follow the path of an object, to track effortlessly and smoothly while reading, or to jump from one line to another without making a mistake and repeat the same line or move on to the next without noticing it. 

  • Alterations with this visual ability can also cause problems when hitting a ball, for example. 
  • Or we need to use a finger to guide us when reading so as not to lose the line, or having to read the same text several times or have difficulty copying something from one place to another.

Focus or Accommodation,

Refers to the shift of the eyes to see from near to far and from far to near, as well as the ability to maintain focus in near vision. This causes fatigue when reading or writing, problems with copying, reduced comprehension, and avoidance of tasks.

Eye-Hand Coordination,

It refers to visual-motor integration, and its alteration can have repercussions having problems in sports and difficulties in fine motor coordination (small and precise movements, such as picking up a small object with the fingers in pincer), in addition to having difficulty expressing ideas in writing.

Visuospatial Ability and Directionality,

Both the ability to know where one’s body is in space and the ability to follow directions. 

This skill relates to the ability to move in the environment without bumping or tripping, follow directions, and understand the orientation of letters and numbers in reading and writing.

Alterations with visuospatial ability can impact good balance and coordinated movements of one’s own body and having good bilateral body integration (using both sides of the body consciously together and separately).

In addition to having difficulties between right and left, up and down, or front and back (Borsting, 1996, in Influence of visual perception in Learning). We need to develop an awareness of our body within an environment, the relationship between us, the objects in it, and the space itself.

Visualization and Visual Memory,

It refers to the ability to perceive and keep visual images in memory, which helps us in our daily life and sports. Thanks to visual memory, we can create a mental image that resembles a place, person, animal, or object in our visual memory to recognize it.

When suffering some alteration with this visual ability, we may have difficulty remembering what we have seen or read, spelling a word, or poor reading comprehension.

Reproduction of Visual Form Perception,

According to Martin (2006), this refers to the ability to discriminate, identify and recognize shapes. 

That is, being able to notice the color, orientation, or size of objects to find similarities or differences between them; being able to focus on a particular aspect of an object’s shape while being aware of the relationship between the shape provided by that object and background information; being able to determine the complete shape of an object without seeing it in its entirety; or having the ability to identify an object as such when the size, orientation or rotation of the object has changed.

Amblyopia Therapy For Adults

Vision is closely related to the learning process when we are children and the skills we acquire during this learning period.

We learn perceptual, motor, perceptual-motor, and cognitive skills at that time. The visual skills we have discussed previously would be encompassed within the perceptual skills.

The dysfunction of any of these skills can affect the learning process, which will have repercussions on our personal development first as children, at school, and in sports, and later, as adults in our work and daily life.

Therefore, we see how having a Lazy Eye in adulthood goes beyond having poor visual acuity in one eye. We can see how it is related to other visual, motor, or cognitive skills and what aspects of our daily life can be influenced by our so-called Lazy Eye.

With this, we do not intend to promote disillusioned thinking or that ‘we are a lost cause’ as we are already adults and have no chance of recovery.

On the contrary, we would like to encourage anyone who is in this situation to go to a specialist for a first session and be guided to see if we are suitable to start vision therapy, and thus work on all those aspects that are necessary to have the best version of our vision.

Remember that each person is different, and we won’t all have the same difficulties in our daily life; not every amblyopic person has to be clumsy, and not everyone who is clumsy or not skilled in sports has to have a lazy eye.

We can improve any skill based on our motivation, perseverance, and practice.

We shouldn’t allow Amblyopia to prevent us from becoming the best version of ourselves. (Side note: We’ve seen firsthand how an amblyopic girl is becoming a fantastic digital artist – who would have thought..)

Sometimes, however, we encounter minor difficulties in our daily lives; certain inconveniences or situations that we may not be aware of could be due to Amblyopia.

Have you ever had any difficulties or inconveniences rooted in its Amblyopic origins? Don’t let it bring you down!