Dr. Ryan Corte
Amblyopia (Lazy Eye): What Parents Need To Know
Updated: Mar 4
Do you or someone you know have a lazy eye? Are you a parent or guardian looking to learn more about amblyopia? Has your child been asked to patch one of their eyes or been referred for surgical alignment of their eyes?
If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, read on to learn more about the causes and treatments of amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.
What is amblyopia (i.e. lazy eye) and how does it develop?
Amblyopia is often referred to as a lazy eye and is most commonly diagnosed when an otherwise healthy eye can’t be corrected to 20/20 with glasses or contact lenses.
With this in mind, there are different ways that you can get amblyopia. It develops due to the lack of a clear signal being sent back to the brain during the visual developmental period and is most often caused by:
Having a high prescription that’s not corrected in one or both eyes.
Having a significant difference in prescription between the two eyes.
Having something block a clear path for vision to come through to the back of the eye (i.e. cataract, eyelid).
If one of the eyes permanently turns in, out, up, or down (i.e. strabismus).
Lazy eye can be easily missed by parents
Our visual system is incredible and the brain is great at compensating for problems by creating ways around them.
If our eyes are aimed in two different directions, rather than having one clear picture, we would see double. In order to make the double vision go away, the brain will just start to ignore the other picture, or suppress it, over time.
For example, if your child can see great out of one eye, but the other one is blurry, rather than trying to put two images together that don’t match, the brain suppresses or shuts off the blurry one.
That’s why we often see kids for their first eye exam, diagnose them with amblyopia, and completely surprise parents.
Amblyopia treatment options
Amblyopia treatments vary based on the reason for the condition, the age of the child, and the severity.
In general, many studies have shown that glasses alone can make a huge improvement. When glasses aren’t enough to fully restore vision, doctors often patch or blur the “good eye” to allow the amblyopic eye the opportunity to rewire.
Unfortunately, many parents have a hard time getting their kids to wear a patch. Luckily, most of the time we don’t need to patch for long to have a big impact. Many degrees of amblyopia can have significant improvements with only a couple of hours of patching a day (which we do after school while they’re at home).
If patching is still too much, there are eye drops that can be administered at home just a few times a week that will create similar results.
And don’t forget, some types of amblyopia, like those caused by strabismus, will also benefit from vision therapy.
Is there an age when amblyopia can no longer be corrected?
We now know that due to the brain’s ability to change (i.e. neuroplasticity), we can often cure amblyopia in kids well into their teenage years.
That being said, it’s always easier to correct at a younger age. This is a great reason to make sure the whole family has a yearly comprehensive eye exam.
Final thoughts on amblyopia
Early detection is very important for the optimal treatment and management of amblyopia. While most of our doctors see pediatric patients 7 years of age or older, we do have pediatric eye doctors that are happy to see pediatric patients as young as 6 months old.
Interested in getting your child an eye exam?
Schedule an eye exam with one of our doctors of optometry today!
Give us a call or simply schedule online: Northlake Mall | Concord Mills | Biltmore Park | Asheville Mall