Amblyopia, commonly referred to as lazy eye is a visual condition where one eye has reduced vision which is not correctable by wearing glasses or contact lenses.
Amblyopia typically starts developing in infancy through about 8 years of age. Usually it involves only one eye but in some cases it can occur in both. If it is detected and treated early in life, one can have relatively normal vision. However, if it is not treated, the vision in the lazy eye can get worse. This is why it is so important to treat as soon as it is diagnosed; even if you don’t see any symptoms or problems.
Our eyes are designed to have the same clarity of sight in both eyes in order to work correctly. One form of lazy eye is where one of the eyes sees worse than the other and as a result the brain depends on the good eye. This is called Refractive Amplyopia. When you look at the eye chart, the difference in vision between the eyes is 2 or more lines apart.
Refractive amblyopia occurs when one eye has uncorrected nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism and the other eye does not. More commonly we see refractive amblyopia with uncorrected farsightedness. In these cases the patient typically has no symptoms.
Usually when parents see an eye that doesn’t seem to line up correctly they think that it is a “lazy eye.” In fact, that is a condition called an eye turn, or Strabismus (link to the alternative treatment to surgery page). It is important for parents to understand that while amblyopia and strabismus often occur together, you won’t always see an eye wander off when your child has amblyopia.
Eye turns are an inability to point both eyes in the same direction simultaneously. One or both eyes may appear to turn in, or one eye may turn out, up, or down. Eye turns can change from one eye to the other and may only appear after a person becomes tired or injured.
An eye turn may cause double vision. To avoid seeing double, the person may ignore the visual images from one eye by turning his or her head while reading. In some cases the brain will ignore the image from one eye resulting in amblyopia.
As a parent it is important to educate yourself on ALL treatment options. Children DO NOT out grow eye turns or lazy eye and surgery is not the only treatment option.
Treatment for amblyopia varies greatly. Probably the most important point that parents. Some doctors will tell you that nothing can be done after age seven. However, new research is confirming what we have known for years; thanks to optometric vision therapy, it is never too late to treat a lazy eye!