Amblyopia: What You Need To Know

At a Glance


  • Poor vision in one eye


  • Eye examination


  • Eye patch
  • Eye drops

What Is Amblyopia?

Amblyopia, also referred to as lazy eye, is a form of poor vision that occurs in only one eye. It tends to develop when there is a breakdown in the way that the brain and eye works together, and the brain is unable to recognize the sight from one of the eyes. Over a period of time, the brain will rely more on the stronger eye and the vision in the weaker eye will only get worse.

The reason it is called lazy eye is due to the fact that the stronger eye is able to work better than the other eye. However, individuals with amblyopia aren’t lazy, and they are unable to control the way that their eyes work.

Lazy eye begins in childhood, and it is the most common form of vision loss in children. As many as three in 100 children have lazy eye. Luckily, early treatment can be beneficial and generally prevents vision problems in the long-term.

What Are the Symptoms of Lazy Eye?

Symptoms of lazy eye can be difficult to notice. Children with the condition can have poor depth perception, which means that they will have difficulty determining how far or near something is. Parents may notice signs that their child is having problems seeing clearly like squinting, tilting their head, or shutting one eye.

In a number of instances, parents do not know whether their child has lazy eye until a physician is able to diagnose it during an examination. That is why it is so important for children to undergo a vision screening at least one time between three and five years of age.

Is Your Child at Risk of Lazy Eye?

Some children are born with lazy eye and others will develop amblyopia later on in childhood. The chances of having this condition are higher in children who:

  • Were born premature
  • Were smaller than average when born
  • Have developmental disabilities
  • Have a family history of childhood cataracts, amblyopia, or other eye-related conditions

What Causes Lazy Eyes?

In some instances, physicians do not know what causes lazy eye. However, there are different eye issues that can result in amblyopia.

As a general rule, the brain utilizes nerve signals from both of the eyes to see. However, if an eye condition causes the vision in one of the eyes to be worse, the brain may attempt to work around it. It begins to turn off the signals from the eye that is weaker and rely on the eye that is stronger.

Some of the eye conditions that may lead to lazy eye include the following:

  • Refractive Errors – Some of these may include vision issues like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. As a general rule, these problems are simple to fix with contacts or glasses. However, if they are not treated, the brain may begin to rely more on the stronger eye.
  • Strabismus – Generally, the eyes move together as a couple. However, in children with the condition, the eyes do not line up. One eye may drift up, down, in, or out.
  • Cataract – This can cause cloudiness in eye lens, causing things to appear blurry. Though the majority of cataracts occur in older individuals, it is possible for babies and children to develop cataracts as well.

How Will a Physician Check for Lazy Eye?

As part of a standard vision screening, your child’s physician will look for any signs and symptoms of amblyopia. All children between the ages of three and five need to have their vision checked once.

What Is the Treatment for Lazy Eye?

If there is a vision issue causing lazy eye, the physician may treat that before anything else. For instance, physicians may suggest eyeglasses or contacts or surgery, depending on the situation. The next step will be to retrain the brain and force it to use the eye that is weaker. The more that the brain uses the weaker eye, the stronger that the weaker eye will get. Some of the treatments will include the following:

  • Wearing an Eye Patch on the Eye That’s Stronger – By covering your stronger eye up with an eye patch, the brain must rely on the weaker eye in order to see. Some children are only required to wear the patch for a couple of hours a day, while other children will need to wear it all day.
  • Using Specialized Eye Drops in the Eye That’s Stronger – Atropine, which is a drug that can be placed in the stronger eye once per day, can help to blur near vision temporarily and force the brain to utilize the weaker eye. For some children, this particular form of treatment is as effective as an eye patch, and parents may find it easier to use.

After treatment begins, your child’s vision might get better over the course of a few weeks. However, for optimal results, it will likely take several months. After that, these treatments will likely need to be used occasionally to stop the condition from coming back.

It is important to start treatment early, as the sooner treatment can begin, the better off your child will be. Children who grow up without having lazy eye treatment may end up having long-term vision issues. Amblyopia treatment tends to be less effective in adults as opposed to children.

If you would like to learn more, contact us at Performance Vision Inc.