Ambylopia, commonly known as lazy eye, is abnormal visual development in infancy and early childhood. It is the leading cause of decreased vision in children and usually develops because of abnormalities in the fibers (nerves) between the brain and the eye. The brain tends to focus on the eye that has good vision and ignore the weak (lazy) eye, causing it to wander. If left untreated, lazy eye can result in mild or even complete vision loss. Symptoms of lazy eye can include a tendency to bump into objects, a wandering eye, eyes that do not work together, poor depth perception, and double vision. Lazy eye usually affects only one eye, but it is possible for both to be affected.
There are three common causes of lazy eye: strabismus, deprivation and refraction. Strabismus means the muscles in each eye are not equal, causing the eyes to cross in or turn out. Deprivation occurs if there is a problem with one eye, such as a cloudy lens (cataract), which does not allow normal vision. Refraction occurs when there is a significant difference between the vision in each eye, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. Risk factors include a family history of lazy eye, premature birth, or low birth weight.
Your doctor can diagnose lazy eye with eye examinations that are usually part of routine medical care. If your physician has concern for lazy eye, they can refer to an eye specialist, such as an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, to determine the reason for your child’s lazy eye. Treatments can include corrective eyewear (glasses or contacts), eye patch, and eye drops. If the lazy eye is severe enough, surgery may be needed to correct the issue. Proper treatment usually improves vision within weeks or months. Typically, the earlier treatment is started, the better the outcome. If your child has been diagnosed with lazy eye, talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan.