Amblyopia (Lazy Eye): What Parents Need To Know

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) - What Parents Need To Know

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 eye? If yes to any of the above, keep reading to learn more about the causes and treatments of amblyopia, also known as lazy eye.

In this video, Dr. Gabriela Olivares and Dr. Amanda Nanasy discuss questions and concerns they receive from parents when they diagnose a child with amblyopia.

If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.

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 picture being sent back to the brain during the visual developmental period and is most often caused by:

  1. Having a high prescription that’s not corrected in one (or sometimes both) eyes.
  2. Having a significant difference in prescription between the two eyes.
  3. If one of the eyes has strabismus and turns in or out to the side.

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Lazy eye can be easily missed by parents

You can get amblyopia caused by blurry vision but many parents wonder why would an eye turn cause amblyopia? That’s a great question! Honestly, our visual system is incredible, so 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. So, 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 the parents. Often times the parent feels bad because they didn’t know the child couldn’t see out of one eye while the child didn’t know they were blurry in one eye either!

RELATED: 5 Reasons Every Toddler Should Get an Eye Exam

Amblyopia treatment options

The good news is that there are ways to treat amblyopia. Treatment varies on the type or the reason for amblyopia, 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 patches or blur the “good eye” to allow the amblyopic eye to have the opportunity to rewire.

Unfortunately, many parents have a hard time getting their kids to wear a patch. Honestly, it can be a struggle. Luckily, most of the time we don’t need to patch for long to have a big impact. Many degrees of amblyopia can have improvements with only a couple 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. 

RELATED: What is Vision Therapy and How Does It Work?

Is there an age where amblyopia can no longer be corrected?

No, doctors in the past said that age 8 was the end of what they called the “critical period”, where everything was done wiring together and could no longer be helped or corrected.  Luckily, we know now that due to neuroplasticity or the brain’s ability to change, that we can often cure amblyopia in kids even twice that age. That being said, it’s always easier to correct when the patients are younger, so that’s a great reason to make sure the whole family has a yearly comprehensive eye exam. Yes and we actually start seeing kids at 6 months of age and encourage parents to schedule their kids for an eye exam to rule out things their kids may never complain about, like amblyopia.

RELATED: Myopia Control: What Parents Need To Know

Final thoughts

In the end, we hope you found this article on the treatment and management of amblyopia helpful. Stay tuned to learn more and be sure to have even your youngest family members examined yearly, to see clearly!