Lazy Eye Causes and Treatments

A lazy eye, or amblyopia, typically develops during infancy or childhood and is one of the main causes of reduced or blurred vision among children. Treatment will depend on the specific cause of amblyopia, which can be determined during a consultation with one of our doctorsContact us today to learn more.

During infancy, vision is poor, and continues to develop significantly as children grow older. In healthy children, the vision centers in the brain develop during the first few years of life as the eyes are used more and more routinely. If an infant is unable to use his or her eyes—for one reason or another—the vision centers do not develop properly. Amblyopia can occur in one eye or both, and is due to the under-stimulation of nerve pathways between the brain and the eye. As a result, the brain begins to favor one eye over the other, as the lazy eye “learns” to see only blurry images even if corrective eyewear is worn.

There are several factors that can contribute to amblyopia, ranging from obvious to obscure. The primary types of amblyopia are related to their respective underlying causes, which include:

  • StrabismusThis condition occurs when the eyes are not in proper alignment. One eye may be positioned inward, outward, upward, or downward. In patients with strabismus, the brain ignores the lazy eye in order to compensate. As a result, the vision in the eye will decrease.
  • Refractive Errors: If there is a significant amount of refractive error—or glasses strength—between a child’s eyes, it can lead to amblyopia. Because the brain favors the eye with better sight, the child and his or her parents may not even realize there is an issue present. Typically, this condition is diagnosed whenever the child has his or her first vision test.
  • Cloudiness in the Eye Lens: Sometimes referred to as deprivation amblyopia, this condition occurs from cataracts or a similar condition. Some children are born with cataracts. If the condition is not treated in a timely manner, children may experience a lifetime of poor vision. Deprivation amblyopia can occur in one or both eyes.

If an amblyopia diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor will most likely begin with corrective eyewear to address the refractive error. Consistent use of glasses or contacts is imperative. If any cataracts are present, they will be removed so that the vision can become clearer. Lastly, the amblyopic eye will be strengthened with consistent use. In order to do this, the better-seeing eye will be patched, or eye drops will be administered to effectively “blur” its vision.

As you can imagine, it can be a challenge for young children to wear an eye patch. However, patching is the most predictable and successful treatment option. This type of treatment will require patience, persistence, and encouragement. Because patching works faster for younger children, it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible. Your doctor will inform you exactly how long the patch should be worn every day. As long as the child is conscious with his or her eyes open, the visual input will be processed. Some experts believe that up close activities such as reading, coloring, or hand-held video games are more stimulating to the brain, and therefore produce faster results.

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