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Known medically as amblyopia, lazy eye is a condition in which one or both eyes lack proper visual development in children. It usually starts at birth or early on in childhood. Lazy eye almost always manifests in just one eye. With lazy eye, the visual pathways of the affected eye do not transmit correct visual cues to the brain. As a child develops, his brain “learns” to see blurry images from the lazy eye, and eventually favors the other eye. Since the eye itself is healthy and not diseased, even if glasses are used, the brain is used to seeing a blurry image from the lazy eye. If left untreated, blindness could result in the lazy eye. Lazy eye will not resolve itself and can result in permanent visual problems.
Three causes of lazy eye
Lazy eye has three causes: strabismic amblyopia, deprivation amblyopia, and refractive amblyopia. Strabismic means that the eyes are not properly aligned with one another. The brain begins to ignore the eye that is not straight. Cataracts or like conditions “deprive” a child eyes from visual experience. This type of amblyopia can impact both eyes. Refractive amblyopia occurs when a child’s refractive error in one eye is extremely different from the other. Most children don’t notice they have a problem in this case because they see with the better eye.
Early detection and symptoms
In many cases, routine eye tests given at schools and by pediatricians won’t detect amblyopia. However, there are some signs. If a child squints a lot, or even closes one eye completely, this could be a sign and a reason to see the eye doctor. While often times strabismus, also known as wall- or cross-eyed, is easily observable, many times the misalignment is too subtle for the average person or healthcare practitioner to notice without specific testing that an eye doctor can perform.
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates Vision Screening. Vision Screening should be done over the course of childhood to determine early if a child has amblyopia.
Eye doctors and ophthalmologists can treat lazy eye fairly easily in young children, especially if it is detected early enough. Your child’s eye doctor may use eyeglasses, drops, patching or Vision Therapy.
Is lazy eye treatable in older children or adults?
The answer is yes. It was once believed that lazy eye could only be corrected in very young children (typically under 7), and that if left untreated a successful outcome was unlikely. Recent research has proven this to be not the case. However, while treatable in older children or adults, the treatment requires a great deal of dedication on the part of the patient. Nonetheless, lazy eye is a condition that requires a visit to your eye doctor.