Lazy Eye

Lazy eye, or amblyopia, can be caused by a number of childhood eye conditions.

Babies are not born with perfect vision. Normal vision develops slowly over the first several years of life when the eyes and the brain work together. Like a muscle, vision only grows when it is used properly. If for any reason the brain does not receive a clear image through an eye, that eye will never learn to see well. If sight does not develop normally, this is called amblyopia.

Lazy eye can also be caused by a number of common childhood eye conditions. If children are extremely near-sighted or far-sighted, or if there is a large difference between the two eyes, this can lead to amblyopia.

Another common childhood eye disorder that can cause lazy eye is ocular misalignment, or strabismus. This is a condition where the two eyes are looking in different directions. Only one eye at a time is looking where the child wants to look, and to avoid double vision the brain ignores the vision coming from the misaligned eye. If this occurs for too long, amblyopia can develop.

Some uncommon causes of lazy eye are conditions that block vision from entering the eye, such as a droopy eyelid, or cataracts.

A lazy eye can be treated to restore normal vision, but this has to occur before the age of 9 or 10, otherwise the vision loss can be permanent. All children should have their vision checked at least once before the age of 5, along with an eye exam by an ophthalmologist to make sure both eyes are developing normally.

Once the cause of amblyopia is fixed, the eye and brain must be retrained to see well. This is often accomplished with glasses, eyedrops, or patching the good eye if there is a difference between the two.