What is a Lazy Eye?

The medical term for lazy eye is amblyopia. Lazy eye is when the vision in one eye doesn’t develop the way it should, and may not see as well as the fellow eye. However, the term “lazy eye” is misleading because the issue is not in the eye itself, but with the connections to the brain. Amblyopia is a developmental problem where the brain cannot recognize and process an image from one eye correctly.

At Hill Vision Services, our team of experienced ophthalmologists and optometrists are committed to providing the best possible eye care. Contact us today for lazy eye diagnosis and treatment for children.

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Signs of Lazy Eye

While a weaker, or lazy, eye is not always evident without an eye exam — below are some typical lazy eye symptoms:

  • An eye that wanders inward or outward
  • Eyes that appear to not work together
  • A cross-eyed appearance
  • Poor eye focusing skills or inability to follow an object
  • Unusual eye movements such as flickering or blinking
  • Shutting one eye or squinting
  • Rubbing eyes often
  • Poor depth perception
  • Tripping often
  • Poor eye-hand coordination
  • Reduced reading speed and comprehension

What Causes Lazy Eye?

A child with amblyopia will not be able to focus properly with one of his or her eyes and the other eye will compensate for the problem, so much so that the affected eye suffers as a result. The weaker eye will not receive clear images, thus the brain will not receive clear data and will eventually start to ignore it.

In many cases, the brain and the stronger eye make up for the shortfall so well that the child does not notice they have a problem. That is why lazy eye is often not detected until a child has a routine eye test.

Causes of amblyopia include:

  • Strabismic amblyopia (muscle imbalance) – The most common cause of lazy eye is an imbalance in the muscles that position the eyes. This imbalance can cause the eyes to cross in or turn out, which prevents them from working together.
  • Refractive amblyopia (difference in sharpness of vision between the eyes) – If there is a significant difference between the prescriptions of each eye, it can result in a lazy eye. This is most commonly due to farsightedness, but can sometimes occur with high amounts of nearsightedness or astigmatism.
  • Deprivation amblyopia – A problem with one eye, such as a cataract, can prohibit clear vision in that eye. Deprivation amblyopia in infancy requires urgent treatment to prevent permanent vision loss. It’s often the most severe type of amblyopia.

For some people, lazy eye is caused by a combination of strabismus and refractive problems.

Factors associated with an increased risk of lazy eye include:

  • Premature birth
  • Small size at birth
  • Family history of lazy eye
  • Developmental disabilities

Amblyopia Treatment

Treatment can be effective and the sooner it begins, the better. Contact us to get started!
In childhood, the complicated connections between the eye and the brain are still forming, so the best results occur when treatment starts before age 7. However, children between the ages of 7 and 17 still often respond to treatment. Treatment options depend on the cause of the lazy eye and how much the condition is affecting vision.

Some of our recommended treatment options include:

  • Corrective eyewear – Glasses or contact lenses can correct problems such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism that result in lazy eye.
  • Eye patches – Wearing an eye patch over the eye with better vision for two to six or more hours a day can stimulate the weaker eye and be an effective treatment.
  • Bangerter filter – This special filter is placed on the eyeglass lens of the eye with better vision. The filter blurs the stronger eye and, like an eye patch, works to stimulate the weaker eye.
  • Eye drops – An eyedrop called atropine (Isopto Atropine) can temporarily blur vision in the stronger eye. This is usually prescribed for use on weekends or daily. It encourages use of the weaker eye and is an alternative to an eye patch.
  • Surgery – Surgery may be an option if one has droopy eyelids or cataracts that cause deprivation amblyopia. If the eyes continue to cross or wander apart with the appropriate glasses, we might recommend seeing an eye muscle surgeon for a procedure to straighten the eyes, in addition to other lazy eye treatments.

It’s important to monitor for recurrence of lazy eye, which can happen in up to 25 percent of children with the condition. If lazy eye recurs, treatment will need to start again.

Lazy Eye Correction for St. Louis Area

Discuss your amblyopia treatment options with the optometrists at Hill Vision Services. We are conveniently located in Creve Coeur, Lake St. Louis, and Glen Carbon IL. Request an appointment with our eye care experts today!

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