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Amblyopia (Lazy eyes)

Amblyopia, commonly called lazy eye, is a common condition affecting children and occurs when vision is partially developed, often in one eye. Different reasons can cause incomplete vision development in children, causing disruption in the links with the brain and resulting in poor vision.

Symptoms of lazy eyes

Several signs and symptoms affect people with lazy eyes, but the condition is usually only diagnosed during a full eye examination.

The symptoms include:

It may be difficult to tell if a child has a lazy eye without an eye test, especially if they are too young to tell you about their vision. One way to check if a child has a lazy eye is to cover one eye at a time. You may find that the child is happy having one eye covered but push your hand away if you cover the good eye.

Causes of lazy eye

Most cases of lazy eyes develop in childhood. At birth, vision is poor but gradually develops through childhood until about age eight. The brain must receive clear images from the eyes in childhood to build the strong connections needed for clear vision.

In some children with lazy eyes, the connections aren’t properly made, resulting in one eye becoming permanently blurred, even with contact lenses or glasses.

A lazy eye in children often occurs from:

Treatment for lazy eye

Treatment for a lazy eye depends on the underlying cause, but the condition is treatable in young children.

If lazy eyes result from very long or short sight in one eye, the doctor may prescribe glasses to correct the focus, often with patches. The patch will cover the healthy eye to allow the sole use of the lazy eye. The correction process is gradual and occurs over several months.

If the lazy eye is due to a problem with light entering the eye, like a cataract, then treating the condition will be necessary.

Treatment for lazy eye is most effective in children below age eight because the condition becomes more difficult to treat as the child grows. This makes a lazy eye examination important for the best chances of successful treatment.

Diagnosis of lazy eye

Diagnosing a lazy eye is through an eye exam. An earlier diagnosis makes treatment easier, so we recommend taking your child for a vision screening when they are between 3 – 5 years to check their overall eye health, including if they have a lazy eye.

School eye screening may not diagnose less severe lazy eyes, so a full eye exam is best. Children under 16 can receive an eye test under the public healthcare service.

If your child is about age four or you have concerns about your child’s eyesight, visit Optimal Vision to have an optometrist check the child’s eyes. You can call us on 020 7183 3725 to schedule an appointment with our optometrist.

Frequently asked questions

Lazy eyes occur during childhood but may become more obvious as you age due to the muscles gradually weakening.

Early detection and treatment can restore vision in the lazy eye. If untreated, vision in a lazy eye may never be perfect, which makes early diagnosis important.

Lazy eyes develop in the first couple of years of childhood, and the longer vision is affected in the eye, the deeper or worse the condition becomes. When connections to the brain become much stronger, at about age eight, the lazy eye is unlikely to become much worse. However, treatment after this age will not be effective.

If your child gets an eye patch for a lazy eye, wearing an eye patch at all times may not be necessary, but the optometrist will advise on this.

Your child may not like wearing an eye patch, especially as it prevents using the eye with perfect vision. Your child will likely need encouragement and reassurance to understand that the eyepatch will help give them a better vision.

Dr Amir Mani - Specialist refractive surgeon

One of the most experienced refractive surgeons in London

Dr Mani has performed more than 20,000 ophthalmic procedures, including LASIK, LASEK, PRK, Femto Cataract, RLE, Lens ICL and Phakic IOL Surgery

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