Lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, refers to poor vision development in one eye. When this happens, the brain stimulates nerve pathways in one eye (the “good” eye) more than the other. This inactivity in the other eye causes impaired vision and the inability to focus clearly, while the stronger eye tends to overcompensate. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), amblyopia cannot be traced back to an eye health issue. The National Eye Institute (NEI) reports that it can be caused by any condition that prevents the eye from focusing clearly.
Symptoms and treatment for Lazy Eye
Common symptoms of lazy eye include favoring one eye, bumping into objects on one side, eyes that are crossed or do not focus on the same object, and a large discrepancy between the two eyes in the severity of nearsightedness or farsightedness. The earlier lazy eye is diagnosed, the better the improvement and recovery will likely be. The NEI attributes this to the fact that the visual system develops most rapidly during the first seven to 10 years of life. If caregivers do not intervene, lazy eye will likely last into adulthood.
According to the AOA, children should undergo a comprehensive eye exam at 6 months old and again at 3 years old. Several treatment options are commonly used to treat lazy eye. All of them aim to jumpstart the weaker eye. Prescription lenses and eye patches may be used. Patching the stronger eye works by stimulating the weaker eye. For people whose eyes do not focus on the same object, prisms can be used to realign the eyes.
Vision therapy and eye drops may also be used. With eye drops, a drug called atropine is dropped into the stronger eye. This temporarily blurs vision, which stimulates the weaker eye. The NEI reports that this method may be an easier approach than patching when treating young children. According to the University of Iowa, lazy eye affects about 2 to 3 percent of people in the United States.