Accessibility Toolbar

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Amblyopia “lazy eye”

Affecting one in 25 to 50 people, amblyopia is a condition in which the visual function of an eye is underdeveloped. Usually, the vision of the other eye is normal, although, at times, amblyopia can affect both eyes. Amblyopia is most likely to be successfully corrected if detected and treated during infancy or early childhood.

This disorder, like others that affect the visual development, calls for early and regular visual examinations. Young children are not always aware of having one good eye and one impaired eye, and parents have no way of recognizing the problem unless the underdeveloped eye is obviously abnormal.

Causes

Any factor that prevents clear vision during infancy or childhood promotes amblyopia. The chief causes are:

Strabismus (misaligned eyes).
Unequal focus (an asymmetrical refractive error).
Cloudiness in normally clear eye tissues such as corneal opacities and cataracts
Obstruction of the visual axis by droopiness of the eyelid.
Because young children are often difficult to examine, pediatric ophthalmologists use a variety of methods to measure visual funciton and determine the existence of amblyopia and its cause.

Treatment

Once amblyopia is detected, the brain must be encouraged to process visual information from the affected eye. This is frequently accomplished by applying a patch over the child’s good eye. Eye drops are also sometimes used to treat amblyopia.

If left untreated, visual acuity in an amblyopic eye may be permanently reduced and a lifetime of poor and uncorrectable vision could result. This can become an ever more significant and disabling problem if the remaining healthy eye ever becomes diseased or injured. Unfortunately, once a child has reached roughly nine years of age, treatment rarely is successful.