Amblyopia / Lazy Eye

Corinne Odineal, OD, FCOVD

Amblyopia, often referred to as “Lazy Eye” is not an eye that is lazy, or turned out or in, but is an eye that has lacked visual development because of unequal input into the developing brain.  Frequently, amblyopia results because of one eye that has an uncorrected prescription (thus this one eye is blurred) and the brain chooses to ignore the blurred image.   The other reason one may develop amblyopia is that the eye is either turned in, or out, and the individual adapts to the problem of double vision by “suppressing” the information from this eye.  About four million people in the United States are affected by amblyopia.

It is important to have comprehensive eye examinations for children at a young age.  Doctors can detect amblyopia in infants and toddlers with objective testing.  It is important for parents to remember that children will not report this problem if they have good vision in the other eye.  The sooner that amblyopia is detected the better, because earlier treatment of the condition increases the positive prognosis.  However, it is never too late to treat amblyopia.  Many adults have been treated successfully. 

Treatment for amblyopia involves providing the best prescription to the eye in the form of glasses or contact lenses, patching the stronger eye for several hours a day, and performing vision therapy activities to promote good visual acuity, spatial localization, focusing, visual memory, and eventually eye teaming skills.  Treatment is based on the extent of the condition, the patient’s age and the doctor treating the condition.  Treatment for adults takes longer because of the decreased plasticity of the brain as compared to a child.  After treatment, 50 percent of older children or adults see as well or almost as well with their lazy eye as with their normal eye, and four out of five of the rest at least show improvement.  People with amblyopia should look for a doctor who specializes in vision training.


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