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What is a lazy eye?

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Everything you need to know about lazy eyes

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A lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is a visual development disorder in which the vision through one eye fails to develop properly in early childhood. When both eyes are unable to work together to focus on the same point in space, it causes visual problems. 

A lazy eye can cause the brain to suppress one eye entirely so that normal depth vision does not occur. 

It occurs in approximately 1-5% of the population and is the most common cause of visual problems in children.

Symptoms include:

  • An eye that wanders inward or outward
  • Poor depth perception
  • Squinting or shutting an eye
  • Titling of the head

There are several different causes of amblyopia, including strabismus. This is where a child develops a turn in the eye, that causes the eyes to be misaligned. The brain may switch off the squinting eye causing the vision to deteriorate.

Other causes of amblyopia, include long-sightedness (common in children), short-sightedness and astigmatism. In addition, childhood cataracts can cause reduced vision in one or both eyes and may lead to a poor perception of depth.

We can diagnose amblyopia by checking to see if vision differs between the two eyes.

We will also do a complete medical eye exam to ensure there are no other eye problems that could be affecting vision.

If diagnosed before the age of 7 years, we can often treat amblyopia by placing a patch onto the better-seeing eye to improve vision in the lazy eye.

When patching is not possible, drops can be instilled into the good eye to blur vision, therefore enhancing the vision of the weaker eye.

Similarly, lenses can be used to blur the non-amblyopic eye.

If untreated, amblyopia can lead to permanent vision loss. Regular follow-up is required with our Orthoptist while treatment is under-way.