One of my least favorite parts of preschool was the hour each day that I had to wear my eye patch. Not only did it make me stick out like a sore thumb, but it also diminished my vision to a point where things became slightly fuzzy. I had three felt patches, each with a playful image on the front, that slid over my glasses to block the vision of my right eye, forcing my left eye to do all of my seeing. I have amblyopia, commonly known as a lazy eye, and the eye patches that I wore were a part of the treatment that I was given as a child.
One of my happy moments with my favorite eye patch
Amblyopia can be hereditary, which is true for my family. I have relatives on both my dad’s side and my mom’s side who have some form of amblyopia, and although neither of my parents have it, my sister and I both do. Interestingly, my sister and I have different types of amblyopia. There are three different kinds of amblyopia: strabismic, deprivation, and refractive. The most common type is strabismic, which is what you would typically picture when you think of someone with a lazy eye. It occurs when there is an imbalance between the muscles in the eye, and it tends to lead to an eye that rolls or crosses. This is the type of amblyopia that my sister has. Deprivation amblyopia occurs when one of the eyes is physically blocked, preventing it from getting full vision. I have refractive amblyopia, which is caused by a significant difference between the vision in both of my eyes. Essentially, the vision in my left eye is much weaker than in my right eye, so my brain favors the images that it gets from my right eye since they are substantially clearer.
Although I was treated for my lazy eye using a patch as a child, the only real way to deal with my condition is through corrective glasses or contact lenses. I wore glasses throughout elementary school, but once I got to middle school and I began wearing contacts, I was less disciplined about using corrective lenses. Although I have a lazy eye, I can still see fine without glasses on, so it’s easy to forget about them when I’m getting ready in the morning. I also avoided wearing my glasses in high school because my prescription in my left eye is so much stronger than my right eye that my left eye can look disproportionately large, which is something that people love to point out. This has become a problem for me, though, because without corrective lenses, my brain relies even more heavily on my right eye, causing my left eye to become weaker and weaker. I have gotten to a point where I can see perfectly fine without a contact in my right eye, but if I cover my right eye, I can’t read anything or even make out a person’s face.
This was one of the few times I wore my glasses during high school.
Most of the time, I don’t give my lazy eye a second thought. When I have my contacts in, my daily vision is perfectly fine. There are times though when my amblyopia can be inconvenient. In any setting where I need to use one eye in specific, it’s really a shot in the dark as to whether my left eye will cooperate. This became especially apparent when I first began wearing eye makeup. I’ve never had trouble putting on mascara, but if I want to use eyeshadow or top eyeliner, my left eye will look perfect and the right eye will be a hot mess.
Of course, my amblyopia isn’t ideal, but it’s come to be something that’s a part of me. Sure, I’ll never be a fighter pilot or a brain surgeon, but with the help of corrective lenses and some amazing doctors, I’m able to see just fine. My left eye may never be as strong as my right eye, but I am lucky enough to be able to see out of it, and that’s good enough for me.
Image Credit: Jenna Bouquot