Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia is the most common cause of vision loss in children, and it can lead to irreversible vision loss if left untreated.

Amblyopia, also known as lazy eye, is the loss or lack of the full development of vision in one eye. The condition is common, affecting up to three percent of children in the United States.

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Are you concerned about your child’s vision? Request an appointment with one of our board-certified pediatric ophthalmologists.

small child on a swing

What causes amblyopia?

There are three types and causes of lazy eye:

  • Strabismic amblyopia: This type of lazy eye occurs as the result of strabismus, also known as crossed eyes, a condition in which the eyes are not properly aligned with each other
  • Refractive amblyopia: This type of lazy eye occurs when there is a large difference in visual acuity between the two eyes, such as if one eye is very nearsighted and the other is not
  • Deprivation amblyopia: This type of lazy eye develops as the result of a cataract or other condition that obscures vision in one eye

Although amblyopia usually affects only one eye, in some cases both eyes may be affected.

What are the symptoms of amblyopia?

Symptoms may not always be obvious, and can include:

  • An eye that wanders either inward or outward
  • Poor depth perception (bumping into things)
  • Favoring one eye over the other
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Squinting, tilting the head or closing one eye to see

How do you treat amblyopia?

It is important that lazy eye be treated as soon as possible. If it is left untreated, it can cause irreversible vision loss, because the brain will eventually start to ignore the lazy eye altogether. The best time to correct amblyopia is during infancy or early childhood. After the first nine years of life, the visual system is usually fully developed and cannot be changed.

To correct amblyopia, a child must use the weak eye. In young children, patching the good eye for weeks or months may help the lazy eye improve. Although some children may not like to have their eye patched and it can be challenging for parents, it is important that you faithfully follow the patching instructions and attend scheduled ophthalmology examinations. We are happy to offer advice or answer questions to help make the process easier.

Is patching the only method?

Children who cannot tolerate a patch can sometimes be treated with an eyedrop therapy called “penalization.” Prescribing glasses or performing strabismus surgery also may become part of the treatment plan for children with lazy eye. Your pediatric ophthalmologist will work with you and recommend which treatment will be best for your child.

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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Call (800) 363-7575 or submit an appointment request.

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