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Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

Category: Eye Conditions

Published: 2016-10-12

Lazy eye is a visual impairment where usually only one eye fails to achieve visual acuity (the sharpness of your vision and the ability to discern shapes and numbers from a distance).

Amblyopia starts during early childhood and if detected quickly and treated, vision won’t be adversely affected. If left untreated legal blindness or a severe visual disability can develop.

Occurrences of amblyopia are rare with approximately three percent of the U.S. population experiencing some degree of lazy eye.

Variants of Amblyopia and Underlying Causes

There are three different types of amblyopia, each with their own causes:

  • Strabismic amblyopia occurs when the brain attempts to correct for a lazy eye by ignoring the visual input from the misaligned eye.
  • Refractive amblyopia results from refractive errors in one or both eyes despite proper alignment. This situation can arise if one eye has varying far or nearsightedness while the other eye does not. Astigmatism that is more severe in one eye can also cause this type of amblyopia.
  • Deprivation amblyopia happens when there is an obstruction in the eye that blocks light from properly passing through to the retina and optic nerve. A root cause can be congenital cataracts.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) Signs & Symptoms

Signs and symptoms usually appear during childhood and should be looked at by an Optometrist immediately:

  • Crossed eyes or any misalignment with a child’s eye
  • Discomfort or crying when you cover one eye
  • Poor depth perception and bumping into objects

If you fear your infant may suffer from amblyopia or are concerned for yourself, schedule an eye exam with us as soon as you can.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) Treatments

During a child’s first 10 years of growth, the visual system develops rapidly. Hence the need for treatment to correct lazy eye as soon as it’s noticed. Often times vision can be completely restored without any adverse side effects. Most treatments involve:

  • Using a patch to correct the weaker eye by blocking the stronger one. This treatment can take weeks to months before the brain develops proper eye alignment
  • A drug called Atropine, which is placed in the stronger eye to temporarily blur it, much like a patch, forcing the weaker eye to adapt
  • In office or home vision therapy exercises to strengthen the weaker eye.

Using glasses or removal of a congenital cataract may also be recommended, depending on which treatment you and your Optometrist agree on.