What is lazy eye?
A lazy eye, also known as amblyopia, is quite a common condition in children and happens when vision hasn’t fully developed, usually in one eye. For various reasons, vision development in children might not take place properly, so those strong links with the brain needed for us to see clearly aren’t quite there yet.
Did you know?
Early diagnosis and treatment for a lazy eye are important in order to treat the condition successfully. We’d recommend you take your child for an eye examination from around the age of four to look out for any signs. If you have any concerns about your child’s eyesight, or you’d like to more about your lazy eye, pop in and see us.
Lazy eye symptoms
There are many signs and symptoms that help identify lazy eye, however quite often it is only picked up at a full eye examination.
- An eye that wanders inward or outward
- Poor depth perception
- Squinting or shutting an eye
- Titling of the head
It can be difficult without an eye test to tell if a child has a lazy eye, particularly if they’re too little to tell you what their vision is like. One way to tell is to cover one eye at a time – you may find that they’re quite happy having one covered but might push your hand away if you cover their ‘good’ eye.
Lazy eye causes
All of us are born with very poor vision, but it steadily develops through childhood until about the age of eight. It’s important for the brain to receive clear images from the eyes during childhood in order to the build strong connections we need for good vision. For some children, these connects aren’t made properly which results in one eye being permanently blurry, even with glasses or contact lenses.
A lazy eye can be caused by:
Lazy eye treatments
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of a lazy eye, but it is usually treatable in young children.
If the lazy eye is caused by very short or long sight in one eye, glasses may be prescribed in order to correct the focus, usually with patches. The healthy eye will be covered with a patch, to allow the independent use of the lazy eye. This will be a gradual process, over many months.
If the lazy eye is caused by a problem with light entering the eye, such as a cataract, then that condition will need to be treated.
Treatment is most effective in children under 8 years old, as it gets a bit more difficult to treat as they get older. So it’s important to get a lazy eye checked sooner rather than later for the best chance of successful treatment.
Lazy eye diagnosis
A lazy eye is diagnosed through an eye examination. The earlier the diagnosis, the easier it is to treat, so we’d recommend taking your child to screen their vision when they’re 3, 4 or 5.
School eye screening may not pick up less severe lazy eyes, so it’s best to have a full eye examination. Don’t forget that all children under-16 receive an NHS-funded eye test.
If you have any concerns about your child’s eyesight or you’d like to know more about your own lazy eye, you should visit your optometrist.
Lazy eyes develop in childhood but can become more apparent in adulthood, as the muscles become naturally weaker.
With early detection and treatment, the vision in the lazy eye can be restored. If it is left untreated, the lazy eye may never have good vision restored. This is why early diagnosis is so important.
As the eyes develop in the first few years of life, the longer an eye cannot see, the worse or deeper the amblyopia and the more blurred the vision. Once the connections to the brain have become much stronger (around the age of 8 years old), it is unlikely that the lazy eye will get much worse. However, the downside is that any treatment after this age will not be as effective either.