Common Questions About Pediatric Eye Conditions

Many parents have questions about amblyopia, strabismus and other pediatric eye conditions.

What is a lazy eye?

“Lazy eye” is the common term for the pediatric eye condition known as amblyopia. In this condition, there is a lower level of vision in the affected eye, resulting from lack of use. Since amblyopia often occurs in eyes with strabismus (eyes that cross or drift), the term is confusing. Some people associate the term “lazy” with the weak or “lazy” muscle in the crossing or drifting eye. Some people also mistakenly call an eye with a droopy eyelid a “lazy eye.” It is important to remember that “lazy eye” always refers to an eye with decreased vision from amblyopia.

Amblyopia can occur in eyes without strabismus, so some “lazy eyes” look totally normal to a parent or outside observer. Therefore, vision screening is important in identifying children who have amblyopia. Children who fail a vision screening should have a complete pediatric eye examination with an eye care professional.

If strabismus runs in the family, will my children have it?

Strabismus and amblyopia can often occur in several members of a family over many generations. While they are not passed on to children in any specific, predictable genetic pattern, if a parent had strabismus and amblyopia as a child, their children may have a statistically higher chance of also developing these pediatric eye conditions. In these cases, we recommend that the child has a complete medical eye exam with a pediatric ophthalmologist prior to age two years. The ophthalmologist can determine if these pediatric eye conditions are present or if the children are at risk for developing them over the next several years.

How can I protect my children’s eyes from eye injuries?

Eye injuries are among the most common threats to a child’s vision. The bulk of these injuries happen during sports or recreational activities, and most eye injuries can be prevented. It’s important for parents and children to become aware of the dangers and to take these necessary precautions:

  • Wear protective eyewear when participating in potentially hazardous activities or sports, such as baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey or racquet sports.
  • Select games and toys that are age appropriate.
  • Supervise children when they are handling potentially dangerous glass or pointed items such as pencils, pens and scissors.
  • Keep all chemicals and sprays out of reach of small children.
  • Do not allow children to play with darts, bows and arrows, BB guns, guns or fireworks.

When eye injuries occur, it is always best to have an ophthalmologist, pediatrician or emergency room physician examine the eye as soon as possible. Children with serious eye injuries should always be taken quickly to the nearest emergency room for evaluation.

To learn more

For additional information on pediatric eye conditions, please visit our Pediatric Eye Conditions page or:

The American Academy of Ophthalmology

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus

At Henry Ford, patients come first.

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is committed to providing our patients with compassionate, personalized care. We feature the most advanced treatments in eye care and are dedicated to vision research – always staying at the forefront of innovation. A leader in Michigan, as well as one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the United States, we treat more than 55,000 patients per year at 12 locations throughout southeast Michigan. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it.

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